It’s really difficult to strike a balance between party and polemic, dance, and diatribe – and it’s been a long time since someone’s don’t it right. New York Radio 4, however, are distilling the agitation and repression of a politically frustrated generation into an eloquently confrontational rock’n’roll revolution.
“A lot of the music that we were inspired by, like The Clash, was really good at operating at a couple of different level,” explains Radio 4’s bass-wielding singer Anthony Roman over a been in downtown drinking den Hi-Fi. “You dance to it in a club, and you also go home and think about it.”
Tackling subject matters that many of their contemporaries would rather turn a blind eye to, Radio 4 couch cold, hard facts and ugly statistic in irrepressible dance grooves, urging listeners to take action. It’s a brave thing to do in today’s ultra-conservative American market, where a gagging order was placed on bands at the Grammys and the Dixie Chicks were practically lynched for voicing opposition to Bush.
It’s no surprise, then, that Radio 4’s summer single ‘Start A Fire‘ (12″ only, featuring fab remixes by “accomplished house guy” kevin Swain and band face Justin Robertson) isn’t a frothy paean to girls or pyromania, but an aggressive attack on the American government’s complacency regarding the AIDS crisis. The numbers are staggering, yet you rarely hear them recounted: in the past 20 years, more than 22 million people worldwide have died from the disease. Every hour, two Americans under the age of 20 are infected with HIV. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“When we wrote the song I was thinking that if you’re a teenager now, you might think of AIDS as something that happened 15 years ago that doesn’t exit any more,” Anthony says fiercely.
“It’s not on TV, it’s not in the news, and it’s incredible how something so serious as a killer disease could be treated in the same transitory way was other news. This country has no attention span.”
The next stop for Radio 4 is the UK, as they set out to turn the stages at Glastonbury and Reading/Leeds into raging punk-funk soapboxes.
“We don’t want to burn people out, though,” claims Anthony. “We don’t want to ram anything down anybody’s throat. We don’t want to be either really depressing or totally ra ra ra party party – we just want to talk about something important while everybody has a great time.”