2010 was a big year for Lund, Sweden’s The Radio Dept.. Their album, Clinging to a Scheme was critically praised and their single “Heaven’s on Fire” appeared on many critics’ “end of the year” lists including Pitchfork Media‘s. 2011 starts off with a bang for the band with the release of Passive Aggressive , a collection of the band’s singles and b-sides.
It is an interesting concept giving a band that has only been releasing albums for 8 years their own “greatest hits” album; especially since the Radio Dept. has only scored one charting single in their native Sweden and no charting singles anywhere else in the world. The truth is the idea to release a singles compilation is probably more about their label Labrador Records. The Radio Dept. is Labrador’s best selling band and single collections are generally cash cows for labels. So why not put one together when The Radio Dept. are coming off of arguably their most successful year of existence?
The first disc of Passive Aggressive is the band’s singles. It includes tracks from all three of the band’s full length albums as well as tracks from their EPs, an online only single, and a compilation track. The disc, of course, contains the band’s sole charting single “The Worst Taste In Music” from their 2006 album, Pet Grief. The track is really the quintessential Radio Dept. track. It contains a wall-of-sound keyboard line with an electronic drumbeat backing it. Over the top are dream pop vocals that would make The Church jealous. It’s not until the song’s outro that song serious guitar arpeggios are added.
The second disc of Passive Aggressive is largely made up of b-sides of varying quality. “Liebling” gets thrown on the b-side album because it was a b-side on the Why Won’t You Talk About It? single but the song was actually released as a stand alone single back in 2003. This is obviously an example of a high quality b-side but the second is also populated with tracks like “Tåget” and “The Idle Urban Contemporaries” which are Sigur Ros-style instrumentals that feel a little fluffy to be included on a singles compilation.
In the end, Passive Aggressive feels a little bit self-indulgent. On no planet does a band with zero hits that has only existed for eight years sound like they need a single compilation. It makes sense that the label would want to cash in with interested in the band at an all-time high, but Passive Aggressive is not just a money making tool; it is a good Cliffnotes for anyone who got interested in the band because of “Heaven’s on Fire”.