Wednesday, 24 September 2008

TV On the Radio - Dear Science (4AD 2008)

All eyes on TV on the Radio for this their third album. You see, NME reckons their producer and drummer Dave Sitek is the most important man in music cos he's worked for Hollywood (mmmm Scarlet) and has afternoon tea with David Bowie every Thursday. But what of the rest of the band? They're just as talented as he and their previous efforts have been nothing less than mesmorising. From the difficult and admirable 'Desperate Youth Bloodthirsty Babes' to the pumped and uplifting 'Return to Cookie Mountain' they have prided themselves on fuzz-drenched guitar sustain, synths and pounding drums and rumbling basslines. All overseen by tunde Adebimpo's awkward soulful vocal finding notes and melodies in the cosmos and lifting his voice like an antenna to the sky. Still they were arty and difficult and not likely to cross over.

Here is their chance, with an NME approved producer and new canons in their armery they are ready. And while this album is brilliant in places and visionary in others, it outlives its welcome after a while and each song is slightly too long. But who cares, ultimately, because wjhen they are good they are awesome. They've added to their artrock experimental garage band sound with new awkward drums, and funk guitars and hip-hop stylings. Tunde now sounds like a mesmeric James Brown occupying multiple frequencies, losing himself in a hypnotic dance in places, like Aesop Rock doing an impression of Michael Stipe in others (this is a good thing). Amongst the tales of love and alienation, there is a political consciousness, 'Angry young mannequin, American apparently' and a flirty dirty funkiness, 'I'm gonna shake you, I'm gonna make you come'. The free jazz wall of sound is now Spector-ish in places and Numan-esque in others. Then 'Family Tree' comes on with its haunting harmonies and slow-paced tenderness and there's a TV on the Radio lovesong for the ages bewitching your ears. DLZ sounds like Saul Williams doing Primal Scream songs, which is what Saul Williams is currently doing. There must be a mutual love affair between Saul and Tunde, two deeply poet vocalists able to ride different frequencies.

This isn't quite the commercial entity that the band will expect it to be, but it's still pretty brilliant and visionary. Dave Sitek may be the NME's most important person in rock, but he's certainly not the most important person in the band. These are 5 musicians at the top of everyone's game. Just imagine if they did decide to make a pop record.

Official site
obligatory Myspace
My favourite of their songs (from 'Return to Cookie Mountain'):

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