Saturday, November 15, 2008
TV on the Radio, "Dear Science"
TV on the Radio
Dear Science *****
For the past 25 years, there has been constant bickering from aging rock stars and their listeners that music is not the same anymore. It is always the same kind of complaint, along the lines of "There is no good music anymore," or "It's not the same as it was." They always rail against what is on the radio or on TV. My response to them: You have been looking in the wrong places. For once, just venture to the left of the dial where young and exciting bands are tuning in, rocking out and dropping out. Aging rock star David Bowie knows this. He's become a patron of many young rock bands, like TV on the Radio. Bowie even sang on their previous album, the excellent Return to Cookie Mountain. That should be enough to silence modern rock's biggest critics.
TV on the Radio is one of the finest bands out there right now. Their debut album, Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, highlighted a band trying their hardest to reshape the boundaries of rock. At first it made little noise in the indie community, until it unexpectedly won the Shortlist Prize, beating out favorites Franz Ferdinand and Wilco. They immediately became one of indie's biggest acts almost over night. Their follow-up, Return to Cookie Mountain, showed that they were not a one-trick pony, as the album was filled with distorted guitars over steady beats, with Tunde Adebimpe's powerful bellow paired with the freakish falsetto of Kyp Malone. Cookie Mountain seemed like TVOTR was preparing us for a new sound, like the Talking Heads' Fear of Music was a prequel to Remain in Light. It turns out that Cookie Mountain was a mere experiment, and their third album Dear Science is the scientific law. They have managed to construct a new, fresh rock sound. If their previous albums were inaccessible to the average listener, then Science is perfect for the mainstream listener. It's intelligent and accessible rock.
Dear Science is an eerily beautiful masterpiece that pulls you in, shakes you up and throws you out. When you finish listening to the album, you will walk away a different person. The album is filled with pounding guitars, triumphant horns and brilliant vocal work by Adebimpe and Malone. Some of the songs have a pleasant beauty to them, like "Stork & Owl," where hip-hop beats are paired with plucking violins.
Other songs beat you up on the inside, like the opener "Halfway Home." Some are just plain fun and funky. The album's first single, "Golden Age," is a Prince-esque jam, where Malone's falsetto is paired perfectly with Adebimpe's baritone. Unlike their previous songs, their vocals are not driving to extremes, and they sound great today, even sexy. It's like a duet between Barry White and Thom Yorke, a song you can groove to and think about at the same time.
Probably the best thing about the album is its sound. It's one of those few albums that manage to sound great anywhere. It doesn't matter what kind of speakers you're playing the album from. You could even make your own speakers, and the album's crisp production would sound great. It can be played at any party, whether it is being held by existential philosophers or the jockiest of jocks. It's an album that will fit in perfectly with any surrounding.
TV on the Radio has possibly made the year's best album with Dear Science. It might not even have any competition, as no album this year will sound as advanced and brilliant as Dear Science. With this album, TVOTR has entered the pantheon with the finest artists of the decade.
In "Golden Age," they proclaim: "The age of miracles/The age of sound/Well, there's a golden age/Comin' round, Comin' round, Comin' round!" It turns out they are right. For the past few years, indie bands, ranging from Radiohead to LCD Soundsystem to M.I.A., have been making brilliant, forward- thinking music. This album is their proclamation. The horns sound glorious, and the songs have a positive vibe to them, despite the dark lyrics. It's as if the band has returned from battle as heroes. With this album, the Golden Age has begun, and all are welcome to join.