Black Boys on the Radio is a fitting title for Benjamin Carter‘s new EP, not only because there are songs on the EP that could easily fit in with what’s played on the radio today, but also because the subject matter digs deep into the culture around race, class and a host of other subjects relate to how people from minority groups survive in our current society. Coating these weighty subjects behind Prince-like rave-ups, indie rock riffs and punk rage, Carter shows off an admirable range that should expand his audience and notoriety.
First single “Lost Control” is a perfect radio jam. Melodic synth rock with a driving beat and combustible spirit, the song hides an undercurrent of insecurity. “Trying but I’m out of luck. Now walls are closing in. You say that I don’t fit in” Carter sings, with an air of desperation and fraught nerves. It’s the kind of song that sucks you in with the hook, but keeps you coming back as the lyrics seep in.
Opening track “Psycho” struts with a glittering rhythm a vocals that are imbued with a smooth soulfulness, vacillating between R&B and indie pop. Though musically upbeat, the song finds Carter laying bear mental health struggles, addressing issues of self-doubt and ego. The title track also looks inward, with Carter using his own struggles and ambitions (“I pour out all my dreams for my mistakes”) as a representation of the disparity between the praising of black entertainers and celebrities while so many other black citizens are victims of abuse and marginalization.
“Finish the Job” keeps its sights aimed societal issues, serrating those in power (“What’s it like to be in charge? Spoon-fed by the feds or the lord?”) and lambasting their attempts to suppress those under them (“Your guns are loaded, always focused. You better finish the job!”). While this track plays with dark metaphors, “Hands Up (Don’t Shoot)” is clear in its criticism of police violence (“You’re a killing machine, I’m just trying to breath”). Bursting with combustible punk energy and a raging chorus, the song hits hard.