Brooklyn’s TV On The Radio occupy a pretty unique position in the music scene right now – benefactors of pretty much universal critical acclaim, but still a relatively cult concern with music fans both in the UK and the States. Their dense and multi-faceted sound has gradually streamlined since their sprawling, dark 2006 effort Return to Cookie Mountain.
Previous record Dear Science took massive plaudits from journos everywhere, and numerous “new Radiohead” quotes were bandied about. Some feared that when the band announced a hiatus after Dear Science’s release, we might not hear from them again. Yet just 3 years later, the band have relocated to LA and a new record has arrived, and the band’s progression away from rock influenced murkiness continues.
This record is chock full of bright, catchy hooks, often dispatched by the soulful twin falsetto voices of Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone. Opener ‘Second Song’ sets the stall of the record out, built on funky guitar, tight grooves and layers of brass. Many of the album’s more energetic moments mix dub influenced bass and danceable beats, especially ‘No Future Shock’ with its loose, lazy rhythm countered with Adebimpe shouting “Dance! Don’t Stop! Do the No Future, Do The No Future!” as if he’s at the last clubnight on earth.
The band are capable of delicate sweetness too, as on the brilliantly restrained ‘Killer Crane’. Band mainstay and producer David Sitek is sometimes criticised for over-egging his productions, but this song frames the simple, light melodies beautifully with sparse, shifting sonic textures. Lyrically, there is a new directness to the songs, and the single ‘Will Do’ is a great example – “It might be impractical to seek out a new romance, we won’t know the actual if we never take the chance.”
There is a definite loose, upbeat feel to this album as a whole, and TV On The Radio seem much more at ease with their sound. This record does lack a little of the shade that made songs like ‘DLZ’ from Dear Science so interesting, but it’s hard to fault the quality of songwriting and production here. The New Radiohead? Not yet, but following the uncertainty of their hiatus the future (or should that be No Future?”) looks promising.