TV On The Radio
Record Review by Adam McKibbin
Perhaps no band is better positioned for backlash than TV on the Radio, who for the last several years have been showered with so much critical love that you'd practically think they were that other band with "Radio" in its name. During that time, perhaps only The Arcade Fire has faced similarly sky-high expectations from the indie music world (even though TVOTR is technically no longer part of their world, having signed to Interscope). But while The Arcade Fire simply held serve with Neon Bible–an impressive feat in and of itself–TVOTR has been boldly forging ahead. The evolution continues on Dear Science, another burst of brilliance and a surefire entry on a lot of Best Of lists come the close of 2008. The backlash will again have to wait.
Dear Science, (yes, the comma comes with the album title) marries accessibility, ambition and the avant-grade as well as any of the band's work to date–and as well as any other band on the radar. "Halfway Home" sets the tone, revving up David Sitek's signature production style of crushing cascades of guitars and effects, a Spectorish Wall of Sound for the indie-rock age. This buzzing core permeates and propels much of the album–and, in that first track alone, is fleshed out by inventive percussion, gorgeous vocal harmonies and bursts of sheer pop-rock pleasure.
Moving onward, "Crying" struts with soul, one of many illustrations of the dynamic vocal interplay between powerhouse Tunde Adebimpe and falsetto-friendly Kyp Malone. The Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra adds even further energy to the adrenalized "Dancing Choose." Just as listeners feel they may be getting the hang of the album, "Stork and Owl" presents a lush and low-tempo orchestral side, which is again revisited on the darkly gorgeous "Family Tree." Again, the track sequencing plays a grand trick, as the brittle ballad fades into the swaggering party-starter "Red Dress."
TVOTR's rhythm section (drummer Jaleel Bunton and bassist Gerard Smith) get overlooked sometimes, in part because of the star power of the other three members and probably in part because this is just the plight of rhythm sections. But the duo is molten hot on Dear Science,. There is hardly a second of wasted space, hardly a moment that passes without something interesting and inventive flashing through the speakers, whether in the foreground or background. Wherever most bands would settle, TVOTR – individually and collectively – pushes. Hard.
More by this writer:
Larkin Grimm - Parplar
The Dears - Interview
The Twilight Singers - A Stitch in Time
Shearwater / Jamie Stewart - Live - June 18, 2007