There are admittedly few things from which to take comfort during the current social and political stresses, but new music from Brooklyn storyteller Adam Silvestri is certainly among them. Under the moniker of Radiator King, he has consistently offered fascinating detours through the dark atmospheres separating punk rock and the blues, a mournful parallel world where Josh White, Tom Waits, and The Clash regularly meet for impromptu jam sessions. Laying emotionally raw lyrics across arrangements both skeletal and carnivorous, he blends the direct perspectives of punk with the gritty landscapes of the blues, deftly tying together these often-raucous musical histories.
In the time since his last record, a 2019 EP called Roll the Dice, Silvestri has been sharing the odd single and trying to connect with his fans through carious social media outlets. This has only intensified in the last few months as COVID-19 has made touring and in-person performances untenable. Recent singles “Out in the Night” and “Gamefighter” have provided illumination on declining relationships and our protracted battle with our own internal and external issues. And though they ring with specific resonance in the wake of our present isolation and confusion, these themes have always provided fodder for detailing the emotional devastation of our daily lives.
Silvestri has once again laid bare the mechanisms of his head and heart on new single, “Crusade”, a rickety shanty of beat poet theatrics and profound insight that exposes our collective frustration with our perceived inability to navigate clearly though this mire of insecurity and helplessness. Through the lens of some mutated strain of gospel, he channels the cacophony of carnival barkers, lost mariners and post-apocalyptic revelers to provide a sinewy weight to this aggrieved call to arms. Brandishing a dilapidated trash-folk aesthetic through which he dismantles the foundations of a handful of genres, Silvestri positions himself as some sort of blues-punk oracle, a man outside the normal flow of time with the ability to twist our perspectives on music and its complicated associations.
Howling at the moon, his voice is rough and stretched close to breaking. The odd and angled percussion, provided by ex-Dresden Dolls and Violent Femmes drummer Brian Viglione, is a rare treat, a spectacle that disregards the borders of its own influences to concoct an approach wholly devoid of artifice and spiked with prescient emotional insight. Oh, and Tom Waits would be very proud of that righteously ominous organ. The track is a haunted and ramshackle jumble of inspirations and motivations, and Silvestri miraculously ties it all together in one cathartic bellow. Turn down the lights, disconnect from the world, and enjoy the thorny darkness of “Crusade”.