Brooklyn’s own TV on the Radio is back with a new album, their first with a major label. Fresh from their Shortlist Award-winning debut Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, this new album expands upon the ideas found on that release. Demos and leaked versions have been all over the Internet for nearly a year, but the record’s official U.S. release was not until September 12. 4AD Records released it around the rest of the world on July 6, 2006. The record has been lauded in the press prior to its release, and for good reason.
It is absolutely impossible to pigeonhole the band into any specific genre. Now, one may say that often, but rarely is it ever true. TV on the Radio mix shoegaze, hip-hop, ambience, alternative rock, and spiritual music into one relentless blend that does not stop. The band is a longtime darling of the indie rock community, but this record could be their breakout.
Each track develops a unique mood using texture and production. The band is notorious for using such techniques to further the mood of the music which, in essence, makes them true artists. Vocalist and frontman Tunde Adebimpe has a background in art, as he is an avid painter and an animator on the MTV show "Celebrity Deathmatch."
TV on the Radio has consistently grappled with politics in its songs, and this release is no exception. Post-9/11 anxiety pervades the record, as exemplified in the song “Province:” "Suddenly, all your history's ablaze / Try to breathe as the world disintegrates." Notable icon David Bowie lends backup vocals to this urgent track.
Bowie’s been a source of major support to the band since 2003, when founding member David Sitek sold him a painting, as well as giving Bowie some of the band’s earliest recordings. Bowie has advised them on everything from what to do with record executives to how to release a one-off track recorded in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
The lead single, “Wolf Like Me” features fuzzy bass, shimmering guitars, and galloping drums, as well as Adebimpe’s and backup Kyp Malone's eerie swirling vocals. As they build up into a fuzzing headtrip, it all disappears into light drums and instrumentation, with Adebimpe’s vocals more audible than ever. Suddenly, the fuzz is back, and the track reaches the climax with both parts of the song (soft and loud) vying for supremacy.
The one problem with the record is that it may be too overwhelming and too much for the casual listener. “Musos” (critics, musicians, et. al.) will not have a problem, but this record may go over the average person’s head. Unless you own amazing stereo speakers and/or excellent headphones, you are bound to miss something. I hope that this will not hurt record sales, which would marginalize this diamond in the rough of the music industry.
The U.S. release features three bonus tracks, including a remix of “Hours” by El-P and two B-sides from the single for “Wolf Like Me.”