A Radio With Guts - Beat Heart Sweet Stereo (Cover Artwork)

A Radio With Guts

Beat Heart Sweet Stereo (2002)

Knock Knock Records

There once was a band out of Ashland, Kentucky by the name of Connie Dungs. They put out some records, each different from the last. They matured through their musical catalogue and recorded an album by the name of Eternal Bad Luck Charm, then broke up. For a while nothing much happened. Then the lead Dung, Brandon Tussey started a band that was the logical progression from E.B.L.C. That band was A Radio With Guts. After releasing an "acoustic but not really acoustic" album, former Connie Dungs members Wayne and Chris joined in on the fun and recorded Beat Heart Sweet Stereo. The result is an emotional roller coaster that leans on the pop punk styling of Connie Dungs, but also adds a harsher, darker element.

Kicking things off is "Tragic Music", which sets the tone for the majority of the record. Its mid-tempo, its simple, and it rocks. Underlying the poppy rhythm is a darker feel that was lacking from previous incarnations of the band. The music is striped down yet emotional, but not in that cool way that seems to be popular nowadays. Though most of the time basic, the best instance of guitar playing comes during the end of "Kentucky Straight Razor", where the guitar belts out a nice solo that has an almost uplifting sound to offer some hope reaching out of the darkness of the rest of the song. Of particular note are the drums. They keep the beat going but do some interesting things here and there. The intro to "Werewolf Weather" is a good example.

The lyrics for the most part relay a sense of desperation. Brandon's words portray a man whose heart has been shattered and now he just doesn't care about anything anymore. The songs are all messages about his pain. Most songs find the broken hearted man reaching for booze and smokes, and maybe a razor blade every once in a while. There are plenty of allusions to hurting oneself, and this adds to the dark tone of the album. Brandon croons his words using his raspy (almost too raspy) voice that doesn't sit well with some people. I for one think it worked well for Connie Dungs and works even better for A Radio With Guts. Occasionally he screeches, like in the song "Kentucky Straight Razor", and it fucking rocks.

Apparently there are two versions of this album, one American, one European. Each has an exclusive song. I have not heard the European exclusive, but I have heard that it fits the overall tone of the album. What we have over on this side of the ocean is a song that doesn't work well with the theme of heartbreak and desperation. The song is "Hey Boss", and is simply Brandon singing an ode to how much he hates his boss. The song reminds me of a bunch of kids playing in the garage singing about how working sucks. You know what I'm talking about; we all did it at one point or another. The exception here is the violent imagery Brandon uses to truly tell his boss "Hey Boss, I hate you".

In any case, A Radio With Guts' first full length as a complete band picks up where Eternal Bad Luck Charm left off. Its poppy yet dark, simple yet thematically whole, desperate but still kicking. Every track is a gem, with the exception of the ill-fitting "Hey Boss". But just between you and me, "Kentucky Straight Razor" is hands down the best song on the album. If you liked Connie Dungs, or if you just like real emotion with your pop punk, then check this album out.