TV on the Radio has the unique ability to write about some of the most depressing concepts set against the backdrop of uplifting and soaring melodies. This in a sense provides these topics with a depth which before would seem unimaginable. With their sophomore effort, Dear Science, they wrote of longing, loss, and death but their musicianship rang triumphant. In fact, only recently the band suffered the loss of their bassist, Gerard Smith.
With Nine Types of Light they set their cross-hairs on love in all of its beauty and destruction. This album lacks the production depth and clarity that was very evident in their previous two releases but the energy and triumphalism reigns supreme. The lyrical prowess of this band knows no limits as they border on poetic brilliance a majority of the time. However, musically the band has slowed down in a way that is very much at odds with the progressive transition of Return to Cookie Mountain to Dear Science. There are some great touches to their songs like the banjo-fueled twang of “Killer Crane” and the vibrant horns of “New Cannonball Blues”. I believe that the album’s strongest track is “Will Do” which the band clearly thought to be a worthy single as my copy of the album contains an additional two remixes of the song by Switch (of Major Lazer fame) and XXXchange Dancehall.
My favorite aspect of TV on the Radio’s music has been their refusal to adopt the traditional “verse-chorus-verse” structure which is most clearly exemplified in “Repetition” which crescendos in an upward spiral of energy and angst. This consistently keeps the band interesting and relevant; this is also most likely the reason why artists such as Switch consistently find fertile grounds in TVOTR’s grooves. Simply put, this album is a great addition to anyone’s collection but it is not on par by any stretch with their previous two releases. Thematically it has a sense of evolution synonymous with TVOTR, yet musically it stagnates ever so slightly. With the death of Smith, it is impossible to tell the future of the band; and I am sure this notion is the last thing on any of their minds at the moment. Hopefully, they will come out from the tunnel reborn and ready to continue creating fantastic grooves. This band is simply too damn good to cease their trend of musical innovation.
- Rajiv Rao, co-host of Earth Tones (Fridays 11-12AM)