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Album Review: TV On The Radio's 'Nine Types of Light'
Optimistic, on overload, a delight of excesses
In these slim financial times, it’s nice to hear a solid, fulfilling rock record of excesses. I don’t mean this in the sense that there’s tight pants and debaucherous music videos, but TV On the Radio has consistently produced albums that carry the heaviest burdens of sound, and to great, arching success.
For fans, “Dear Science” was the Brooklyn band’s pinnacle, but on new “Nine Types of Light,” there’s new favorites to replace the old ones that’ve been worn out. For instance, your new favorite song is “No Future Shock,” the band’s version of a beefy, ‘roided-out Watusi. It's overflowing with brrring distortion over a tongue twisting chant-speaking, tuneless until the chorus of horns burst into a ringing melodic sonic boom. It sounds like the apocalypse -- they should be so proud – something desperate and growling amidst a collection of love songs.
Of the latter, among the many, there’s honest “Will Do,” which was released a few weeks ahead of the album. It’s only a partial indicator of the set’s overall sound, though it does mix that neediness of “Future Shock” with a heart-warming set of majors and minor, a barrage of garbage noise next to Kyp Malone and Tunde Adibempe’s unison exaltations and a music box that, on and off, reminds you its there, patient.
“Killer Crane” is this set’s middle-set “Here Comes the Sun,” a moment away from the band’s busy schedule of burying vocals and guitar lines under the thud of the rhythm section. The peaceful waters of pastoral synths, “sunshine” and a plunking banjo then yields to tracks like shoulder-dancing “New Cannonball Blues,” synthetic, bad-omened “Forgotten” and “Repetition,” which bullies the listener into its repeating patterns, even after you’re good and done listening to it.
Self-conscious “Second Song” is a fine example of Adibempe’s joy in the Observational Narrator, sometimes with humor in its rhyming schemes, naturally parlay into that patented falsetto. It’s sunnier, like L.A.: in fact, the New Yorkers traded their Williamsburg industrial wasteland for the West Coast when it came to tackling this set of recordings, with Dave Sitek. It’s obviously still a TVOTR album, and economical only in its length, at 10 track (12 if it’s the deluxe, but then you’re just looking for a fight about sequencing “bonus” material). Otherwise, it’s a bullish set when light rock and art-folk of this cold winter held a bear stance. As is sung on “Caffeine Consciousness,” “I’m optimistic / on overload.” And he’s right on both accounts.