M. Ward: "Radio Campaign"


By Dom Sinacola | 27 July 2005

Slap dab in the middle of M. Ward’s overlooked Transistor Radio is a tiny piece (although, by far, not the shortest cut on the album) brilliant in its plain-faced obsession. Two plucky acoustic guitars sit content and amused in their simple tussle, one keeping a blank 4/4 strum and the other aw-shucksin’ around arpeggios. Ward’s vocals are predictably, deceptively bare, not testing his husky voice so much as catering to it: “And I’ve sent signals and signs from the mountainsides / Now I’m gonna try this old microphone line.” So, what makes this shambling ditty more than a plaintive love song?

The first chorus is a dead-giveaway of the song’s craft, introducing a flat snare and female vocal with such ease that the repeated lyric, “Come back, come back, my little piece of mind,” seems more resonant and earnest than the delicate melody allows. Then, when a garbled radio clip halts the music before the second stanza, or when the organ creeps in at “nayyyy-eeeayyyme,” the progression is almost thoughtless. Satisfyingly logical. But little really changes, so the conflation of voices and Ward jumping an octave at the end of 2 ½ minutes is exhilarating. The obsession is there, repeated in pleas, working its way to the core of something, until we’re too deep to see Ward as anything but a dedicated, old-fashioned romantic.