It’s been a long time since The Radio Dept. released Clinging To A Scheme. A six year leave of absence in fact, because why not. April 2010; Gordon Brown had a few days earlier dissolved parliament triggering an early general election; volcanic ash from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajökull had ruined UK Easter holiday plans by grounding flights for days, and Instagram was just the Beta-glint in some Silicon Valley iconoclast’s eye. Clinging To A Scheme was palatably wistful, luminous really, the soundtrack to the perfect park date of bargain sauvignon blanc and first kisses beneath a reclusive stone archway.

The Radio Dept. are as formally quixotic as their music, leaping and transposing styles and ensembles licentiously; from the fuzzy shoegaze illumined by their acclaimed debut Lesser Matters, stabilised by ex-girlfriend bassists, to the sunniest of sunny dream pop prescribed by now established regulars Johan Duncanson and Martin Larsson. During their hiatus they’d written an entire guitar album which they subsequently cast off – though they suggest temporarily – to make Running Out Of Love, which, rather than shifting towards a punky politicisation, offers a fervent protest-dance record rooted firmly in the tradition of Gil Scott Heron’s anti-Apartheid riddims and the Hacienda’s anarchistic raves.

Their inspirations are eclectic and vast; in an interview with the South China Post, Duncanson revealed the myriad of influences as including “acid house, club music, and anything else from the late 1980s era.” Yup, that 80s rave enthusiasm manifests itself in the stripped simplicity of ‘We Got Game’, while the waifish guitar in ‘Can’t Be Guilty’ sounds ripped from a discarded A-ha B-side, delivering that killer duality of sweetness and despondency that only 80s pop rock can really elicit. ‘Occupied’ forces sighing synths – reminiscent of Angelo Badalamenti’s Twin Peaks score – to paint a landscape as agitated and repressive as its abrupt title implies. Frequent bursts of sunshine interrupt the indelibility through erratic keyboards and excitable hi-hats, but the faltering anti-climax of the prolonged build-up invokes the futility of revolution against absolute totalitarianism. Meanwhile the modernist influence of acts like M83 are most keenly felt on tracks like ‘Swedish Guns’, with its barbed, exacting synths cascading like a volley of musket fire, and closer ‘Teach Me To Forget’, with wild distortion and scalded bass. This diaspora is engaging and mostly works, bar the nondescript ‘This Thing’, but it never quite supersedes the sum of its parts. The exception is the banging ‘Committed To The Cause’, which self-constructs through jungle drums and a ravenous, filthy bassline. It’s an affirmation of unshakeable belief, with Duncanson’s proclamation that “I’m never going to give it up” propelled by the coda’s piano – almost freeform in its incorrigible glee – recalling Happy Mondays or even New Order at their counter-culture peak.

Firm lefties, The Radio Dept. have never shied away from political engagement; but it’s been codependent, almost inhibited, by the gaiety of their pop. In the press release for Running Out Of Love they explained that they were motivated by “the impatience that turns into anger, hate and ultimately withdrawal and apathy when love for the world and our existence begins to falter.” Running is insolently partisan, a fervent rebuttal to the proliferation of far-right ideologies sweeping Scandinavia and Europe; none more so than on lead single ‘We Got Game’. That’s great, there’s a deficit in impassioned politics in modern pop music, but these tunes lack levity. The polished refrain of ‘We Got Game’ promotes that “they don’t care/never did/if we want it we have to take it from the overfed,” while ‘Swedish Guns’ blithely suggests “if you want to take care of someone/it’s Swedish guns.” These platitudes are emblematic of the levels of sophistication and subtlety inherent in Running; I understand nuanced debate about public affairs reform is hardly compelling, but there needs to be happy medium between substance and spectacle. The quality of dialogue on display is – though well-intentioned – kitsch and sustained by hollow jingoisms. The result is something benevolent, musically interesting and occasionally provocative, but rather too one-dimensional thematically to overcome its slightness.