TV on the Radio TV on the RadioNine Types of Light
The present avalanche of releases shouldn’t affect a record like “Nine Types Of Light”, but in a month as full of hot releases like this one, the thirst for new work by TV On The Radio can be quenched with alternatives. In general lines, Dave Sitek & co.’s new effort doesn’t disappoint, but its impact is smaller than expected, as so far they have spoiled us with masterpieces. “Nine Types Of Light” isn’t a masterpiece, even though it’s as alive inside as the polyhedral “Return To Cookie Mountain” (2006) and the purified “Dear Science” (2008) and confirms the band as one that wants to move forward and deliver a different record each time. The problem here is that the Brooklyn rock surgeons have taken the grafting a bit too far, indulging excessively in that virtual reality they want their music to live in, like in the video for the humid ballad “Will Do”. Two and a half years ago, César Estabiel said in his review of “Dear Science” on this website that TV On The Radio had finally “given up that obsession to catalyse a dense and complex sound and that you need little to write a good song.” That’s something they seem to have forgotten for this fourth album, on which some songs are so full they can’t breathe ( “No Future Shock”).
Many factors are to blame for this. Overstating it and being fussy, the first would be a political one, interpreting the always theoretical TV On The Radio as a band that went all out to transmit all kinds of ideas with their art-rock during the Bush, Jr. era and, with Obama in the White House, have relaxed somewhat, showing themselves less combative and self-demanding. From that perspective, “Dear Science” would be the definitive orgasm, released just one month before the Hawaiian took up the presidential tasks of a country in flames. Another factor, a more logistic one, is the different context in which the album was recorded, far from their beloved New York, isolated in Sitek’s studio in Los Angeles. And a third, let’s call it a social factor, are the parallel projects each member has participated in during 2009 and 2010, which have given them oxygen (Kyp Malone in Rain Machine, Sitek in Maximum Balloon and the rest, especially Tunde Abedimpe, collaborating all the time with other bands), maybe taking them away from the style book we mentioned above and which they seemed to have learned by heart.
Those three causes could give us clues about this effort, on which the fury has calmed down a bit and the arrows are a bit less sharp than on “Return To Cookie Mountain”, with a slower rhythm than on “Dear Science”. Within the band, less interracial and more sophisticated every time, and at present suffering because of the bad news of the lung cancer that bass player Gerard Smith was recently diagnosed with, new dynamics keep developing, which, in general, seem to want to pick up the peaceful tones of the band’s great songs like “Family Tree” and “Love Dog”. They achieve that on “Killer Crane”, for example, fabulous with its delicate mandolin and dilated unfolding. On the other hand, hypermodern tracks like “Second Song” and the magnificent “Repetition” shows them decidedly interesting as always: as amphibious as Prince, as curious as Radiohead (kindred spirits in more than one way) and as sure of themselves as Arcade Fire. In any case, the concept of alienation they managed so well so far could start to cost them, because the final balance shows a result of, more or less, five resistant tracks and five others staggering in a decidedly non-stick repertoire.