What a strange, wonderful and dramatic trip the band TV on the Radio has been. They began with humble art school beginnings releasing a shoddy, self-produced CD and created their explosive debut album Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes less than two years later. The awesome consistency of the band as a unit and the various side projects of the members culminated in their latest release a month ago. It is apparent that this band's longevity or their level of success was never their ultimate goal. Yet here we are listening to Nine Types of Light with the loftiest expectations like the previous decade of creative output of this band was not just this accidental happenstance. Taking a moment to appreciate the huge accomplishment that is TV on the Radio is a prerequisite before listening to any of their releases. The singularity in their sound and the sheer emotional content in their music is unfailingly awe inspiring. Once you put this journey of this band in context, the appreciation comes naturally.
TV on the Radio is always at their best when its avant-garde sound grinds down its retro tastes to a thorn that gets unforgettably stuck. The gradual build on opener "Second Song" tills new soil once again as the lyrics begin at a spoken word confessional that swells into a sweet groove complete with their tip of the hat to retro soul and doo-wop. "New Cannonball Blues" preaches on with end-of-the-world imagery and some well placed profanity amidst the bleating horns and electronic rhythms. Connecting to "Repetition", TV on the Radio lifts from hip hop, Kraftwerk, and The Temptations' antiwar epic "Ball Of Confusion" and throws them into the blender for a pureed glass of paranoia and chaos. The heady romantic strings over the industrial throb on "Forgotten" brings what begins as a light hearted ode to a fitting mushroom cloud finish.
The biggest pill to ingest is the emphasis on balladry on Nine Types of Light that seems to take the teeth out of their gritty sound. The two lengthiest tracks, "Keep Your Heart" and "Killer Crane" can drag in their ultimate trek for tender moments. Yet, they nail the sentiment on "You" that sways with a siding riff and perfect falsetto. Another standout slow jam is the soulful "Will Do" that deftly traverses the space between the apocalypse and Marvin Gaye. The reoccurring theme of a bleak future is common for TV on the Radio, but the emotional nature of some of the songs on Nine Types of Light is a new topic still being explored. Perhaps the long illness and untimely passing of their bass player Gerard Butler had an influence in their more positive and heartfelt reflections. The confrontational nature is still an indelible force on their newest effort. It just rides shotgun with TV on the Radio's best artistic expressions of love itself.
TV on the Radio will be headlining the Pitchfork Music Festival Sunday July 17. Tickets are still available, so you are a fool if you don't go.
Bonus: Stream samples of Nine Types of Light and download various songs below. Also, watch the corresponding movie to the album that the band is calling "a visual re-imaging of the record". Included are videos of every song directed by various artists and friends of the band.
Purchase Nine Types of Light: CD | Vinyl | mp3
Right-click here to download "Will Do".
Right-click here to download "Caffeinated Consciousness".