Radio Flyer, In Their Strange White Armor

Yancey Strickler

By Yancey Strickler

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

The '90s D.C. emo/post-hardcore sound worked like this: vocals were spoken and screamed, hyperactive bass lines carried the melody, musty guitar screeches countered the bass and vocals and the drums thwacked loudly on the off-beats. Radio Flyer, a mid-'90s Washington D.C. emo supergroup, embodied that paradigm perfectly. The band formed lark-like: Alex Dunham, the revered-but-unknown frontman for both Hoover and Regulator Watts, Gauge's Kevin Frank and Ryan Rapsys, and Sweater Weather's Paul Orbrecht holed themselves up for a weekend writing songs, cut this album a few days later and then broke up; they never played a single show. Considering the uniformity and camaraderie of the D.C. scene at the time, virtually any combination of Dischord and De Soto players could have done much the same, with much the same results, which may be why In Their Strange White Armor exhibits — and, in some places, defines — the classic D.C. sound of the era. Opener "Allied" opens furiously with guitars shrieking like sirens before Dunham, cocksure and throaty, yelps in approval; "(312)" rivals any post-hardcore composition with its cloying guitar chime; and "Swollen Buffet" exhibits the disgust its title implies with a Potomac-rippling shout-along chorus. Although obscure everywhere else, this album had great impact in D.C., where it wielded enormous influence on later bands such as Engine Down and Sleepytime Trio.