Somewhere between punk and blues – a porch and an alley – lies Radiator King, the performing/recording name of Boston native and Brooklyn based, Adam Silvestri. Established in 2011, Radiator King’s music shows influences from both Dylan and Strummer with a sound described by Boston blog Allston Pudding as something akin to what “Tom Waits locked in a room for a month with nothing but a copy of Springstein’s Nebraska” might produce. Whether alone with a guitar or backed by a band, Radiator King embodies the raw energy of punk, the grit and intricacy of delta blues, and the lyrical potency of folk in “songs that are the sonic equivalent to an old whiskey bar at the end of a dirt road.”
In early 2017, Radiator King released his third full length album, A Hollow Triumph After All. The record is at once celebratory & somber, deftly channeling the mood of a Crescent City second line, that holy brass-anchored yin-yang jazz-funeral tradition of New Orleans. A sacred and profound attempt to transcend pain, loss and suffering by celebrating a life well-lived, while at once acknowledging the darkly tragicomic Catch 22 of existence—that we’re born to die.
“We’re all down here together,” muses Adam Silvestri, the singer, songwriter and creative force behind Radiator King. “What connects us is the strife we share in struggle. It unites us, it makes us do wonderful things. There’s this proverb in Eastern philosophy—within crisis is opportunity. I very much believe that. I think that what people connect with in music often has to do with pain. So building this record around the idea of a New Orleans funeral procession—it’s about finding a way to overcome the pitfalls in life, to face them straight on and find the beauty in doing that. That’s what character is in my opinion. That’s what integrity is. Those moments of crisis are where we learn what we’re built of.”
A Boston native now hailing from New York, Silvestri has been featured at outlets such as Brooklyn Vegan, Punk News and Daytrotter. His latest Radiator King record was recorded at NYC’s Vibromonk Studios by producer/engineer Jesse Cannon, and features an all-star cast of session players including drummer Brian Viglione (Dresden Dolls, NIN, Violent Femmes) and accordion player/keyboardist Franz Nicolay (The Hold Steady, World/Inferno Friendship Society). The bulk of the recordings were cut live to tape.
“When I was working on the demos for this album, I left a lot of room for interpretation,” Silvestri says. “I wanted people who would understand intuitively what I was going for, which is a tough thing, but Jesse helped me find the right people. Vibromonk is essentially a warehouse—just this big open space. I wanted to deal with raw emotion. For musicians to follow their instincts and impulses. The beautiful moments in recording are unplanned—when you lose yourself, and you’re just playing and having a dialogue with the people around you.”
A Hollow Triumph After All is a journey in song, an affecting pastiche of Americana and indie rock: snaky, dissonant junkyard psychedelia; ebullient hook-heavy rock & roll; church-organ folk-punk dirges where there’s more truth and salvation in the hangover than the sermon; weary ballads that at their most warmhearted-valiant approximate early Tom Waits and Springsteen’s Nebraska, and at their creepiest, the hellfire-and-brimstone freak-folk of 16 Horsepower. Gluing together the genre-hopping record’s varied styles is Silvestri’s bleak, desperate and unmistakable wail, wizened beyond its years, delivering impressionistic lyrics that seem to emanate from the mystic chasm between wake and dream…