Release Date: Apr 12, 2011
Record label: Interscope
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, Post-Rock
Review Summary: love me love me, say that you love me.I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that the music video to “You” doesn’t hurt. It envisions TV On The Radio ten years after their hypothetical breakup, agreeing to meet in a diner and complimenting each other endlessly on their future endeavours. In the corner sits front man Tunde, sipping a coffee and wondering how the hell the rest of the band has managed to get on with life (at this point, you might want to go check out the video yourself: apparently Kyp is into live action roleplaying and Dave Sitek has plans to make an ice skating show about George Bush).
On 2008's Dear Science, these Brooklyn artistes brought twitchy dance rock with an apocalyptic edge. Well, the end of all things must've been pretty bitchin', because the follow-up is pure heaven. "I'm optimistic, on overload," they sing. TVOTR's most accessible disc rolls out grand alt-rock and thwumping future funk that's warm and grabby — from the arena-Pixies "Caffeinated Consciousness" to the Prince-ly "New Cannonball Blues." Vocalists Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone still have capitalist enslavement and environmental chaos on the brain.
For their nearly decade-long existence, art-rockers TV on the Radio have received their fair share of accolades for a host of reasons—their genre-shifting mercurialness, their consistency, their injection of the falsetto into indie rock—but the ability to craft tender love songs has never been one of them. The quintet’s first two full-length studio albums, 2004’s Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babe and 2006’s Return to Cookie Mountain, brooded with tension and dread, reflecting a gnashing-of-teeth mindset that had no time or patience for affection. “There’s nothing inside me but an angry heartbeat,” vocalists Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone bellowed in unison on the opening Desperate Youth track “The Wrong Way”.
There’s a war on, kids. And anyone who thinks TV on the Radio hung up their “Dancing Choose,” scattered Dear Science’s laurels over a heart-shaped bed, called the missus, and retired to the bedroom just isn’t listening closely enough. Three years, several side projects, and a new studio in an L.
Even amongst the band’s biggest apologists, TV on the Radio’s third album, Dear Science, has been -- sometimes retroactively -- labeled a “disappointment,” largely because the broken art-rock of Return to Cookie Mountain was replaced with a mixture of Station to Station-era David Bowie and the more experimental spectrum of Prince’s horndog R&B. This is pertinent information, because you’re about to hear all about how band’s fourth album, Nine Types of Light, is a “disappointment” too, because it further distances the band from their first two LPs by doubling down on Dear Science’s art-rock&B -- minus the dark edge -- and staunchly refusing to deliver anything like that true-to-form TV on the Radio single (“Staring at the Sun,” ‘Wolf Like Me” or “Dancing Choose”). Nine Types of Light is a lot of things -- arty adult contemporary, the album equivalent of a velvet pillow -- but it’s not a disappointment.
I imagine, from a creative standpoint, the hardest part of being in TV On The Radio — a band adored due in large part to its innovation — is the insane expectation of always doing something new, the ridiculous imaginary standard of never pulling the same trick twice. But so far, that chameleon-like sensibility is what has made this off-beat art-rock Brooklyn quintet so consistently compelling. From the fractured experimentalism of their 2004 full-length debut, Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes, to the beefed-up, futuristic funk of their last album, 2008’s Dear Science, TV On The Radio have managed to re-define their sound with every go-round.
Across four essential albums, TV on the Radio has established themselves as today’s preeminent funk band, steadily pushing their sound down strange new avenues. While groups like James Brown’s Famous Flames radicalized soul into aggressive, staccato party music, TV on the Radio has flipped the equation, twisting a steady base of sharp horns and falsetto vocals into a decidedly experimental framework, leaving their brass section as a pillar of stability amid dense, often bizarrely structured songs. Nine Types of Light furthers this experiment, a stripped-down, contemplative effort that’s just as piquantly oblique and imaginative.
Woody Allen once exclaimed: “Man consists of two parts, his body and his mind. Only the body has more fun.” It’s an observation that could easily apply to [a]TV On The Radio[/a]’s career. Yes, they make intelligent art-rock but… are they fun? “Of course they are,” we hear you cry. But hear us out.
Considering the plaudits heaped on TVOTR's last album, Dear Science, this follow-up seems to have arrived to a rather muted fanfare. Maybe their many side-projects are to blame – the Brooklyn band have variously been acting, soundtracking, producing and recording other albums in the meantime. You can't pick fault with the music, though. Nine Types of Light is a relatively relaxed affair with a focus on the simple love song (Keep Your Heart has Kyp Malone singing tenderly: "With the world all falling apart/ I'm gonna keep your heart").
TV on the Radio were Brooklyn before Brooklyn was Brooklyn. A decade before the borough became known for louche hipsterism and artisanal pickles, it was merely a cheap(er) place for artists to live and create — artists like singer Tunde Adebimpe and producer Dave Sitek. Joined by later recruits Kyp Malone (guitar, falsetto) and ace rhythm section Gerard Smith and Jaleel Bunton, they managed to blend a fondness for early-’80s art-funk with a distinctly millennial electronic embrace.
TV on the Radio have always been more straightforward than people give them credit for. Despite their copious genre-bending and experimental studio murk, the band keeps their amps firmly plugged into pop sensibility, something that’s been further explored with each of their subsequent releases. 2008’s Dear Science saw their apocalyptic imagery and frontman Tunde Adebimpe’s ghostly diverse vocals swirling with celebratory funk bombast, making for a sonic juxtaposition that was as twisted as it was fun, a macabre party that every lupine listener was invited to.
On paper, TV on the Radio's recent accomplishments look like the work of textbook careerists. They left renowned indie label Touch and Go to join Interscope. Their major-label debut boasted a cameo from David Bowie. Singer Tunde Adebimpe starred opposite Anne Hathaway in a Jonathan Demme-directed drama.
Anyone who felt slightly disappointed by TV On The Radio's attempts to get a little bit funky on Dear Science should have some of their faith restored by Nine Types Of Light, which doesn’t quite return to the uneasy, industrial sound of the first two records, but nonetheless reclaims some of the grit their last effort often lacked. It’s not entirely free of all that Prince-loving: the vocals break into a soulful falsetto more than once, but it’s not nearly as all-consuming as it was last time around. In fact, this album probably shares just as much with producer David Sitek’s solid outing as Maximum Balloon as it does with TV On The Radio’s previous material.
Review Summary: While good enough to appease the appetite of most fans, something here is definitely missingPerhaps the only gripe with Nine Types of Light is its broad creative stroke; TV on the Radio veer toward classic forms of Americana, shirking the brooding experimentation that Dear Science perfected. While opener "Second Song" is definitely no "Halfway Home", it sets the tone for the remainder: a wordy, yet heart-felt folk intro transitions into a disco-inflected chorus in only a way Sitek and company can manage without being completely ridiculous. On all fronts, these combinations end up as ingredients to a self-contained and evident pop platter.
Though its author is perhaps not a man known for his aspirational philosophy, a short poem of Charles Bukowski’s, “As the spirit wanes the form appears”, is one of the more succinct and satisfying reflections to be found, on notions of ‘selling out’ and growing up with one’s art. But you probably knew that already. Fortunately, the day we spy TV on the Radio in a sordid bar corner flogging the family jewels is in all likelihood a fair old while off yet.
During the nearly three years between Dear Science and Nine Types of Light, the members of TV on the Radio worked on their own projects, which ranged from Tunde Adebimpe's role in Rachel Getting Married to Kyp Malone's Rain Machine, to David Sitek's move to Los Angeles and solo album, Maximum Balloon. When they and the rest of the band reconvened, Sitek's studio became their home base, and that west coast vibe sets Nine Types of Light apart from their other work. It’s no coincidence that this is the group’s sunniest set of songs; much of the angst and yearning that fueled albums such as Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes, and Dear Science are gone, replaced by a mellower focus on matters of the heart.
TV ON THE RADIO play Sound Academy Monday (April 18). See listing. Rating: NNN On their fourth "proper" studio album, the much-heralded TV on the Radio sound like they're finally comfortable in their own skin. But that's not necessarily a good thing. The tension between their infectious soulfulness ….
"Do the no future," chants guitarist Kyp Malone in the urgent "No Future Shock," an early highlight from TV on the Radio's Nine Types of Light. It's a complex dance the Brooklyn outfit masters on its fourth full-length, molding post-industrial surges, avant-indie rock, and No Wave fervor into distinctly progressive soul music. After the challenging density of 2006's Return to Cookie Mountain, TVOTR eased up two years later with the more refined Dear Science.
TVOTR are firmly in the grip of a middle age that doesn’t particularly suit them. Alex Denney 2011 TV on the Radio first tuned in with 2003’s Young Liars EP, a creepy, copper-toned missive that revealed a band with a Pixies/Bowie/soul fascination and an appealingly insular bent all of their own. A couple of albums followed that delivered on their promise, Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes and Return to Cookie Mountain, before 2008 saw the release of a fourth (third ‘proper’) LP, Dear Science.