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Track-By-Track

TV On The Radio's New Album Dear Science: A Track-By-Track Review
John Doran , August 26th, 2008 17:21

Could TV On The Radio's Dear Science be the album where they finally realise their considerable live potential on wax? John Doran investigates.

TV On The Radio

'Halfway Home'

A tumbling, tribal drum tattoo announces the arrival of Williamsburg's TV On The Radio and their third studio album proper Dear Science. Although the noise could just be the blood throbbing in my temples – what with my anticipation getting all out of whack again. I don't think there has been a band so interesting and engaging (especially live) that has so spectacularly failed to deliver on their promise with albums. Straight away, though, this is sounding like something different. Alienated but not alienating Numanoid/Ultravox! synth tones make for a complimentary backing to Tunde Adibempe's soulful gospel singer does Peter Gabriel honeyed croon. This has a much lighter touch than some of their heavier efforts to date. There is also something of the current fetishization of the 1980s going on, but their reference points are suitably impressive, looking at dark synth music, new pop and post punk indie rather than dayglo socks. These little sonic references to Berlin Bowie, Replicas and Joy Division say they want to make something serious. They don’t want to make a Yazz record. .

'Crying'

An edgy pop/post punk number that speaks of Talking Heads circa Speaking In Tongues. It's reassuring to hear that TVOTR have learned to apply the brakes when necessary and are being restrained rather than flinging channels of noise at every song. Even during live performances they can often threaten to sink under their own sonic treacle. This is obviously their first attempt to make a Pop Record. And to them that is SERIOUS.

'Dancing Choose'

An LCD Soundsystem like affair with skittering hi hats and Casio PT50 cheap-ass punk disco brilliance that calls on The Slits and Heaven 17. (And it's not often that you can say that.) It ends on a massively ballsy brass section, like it would be snug on Head On The Door.

'Stork and Owl'

This rich Trevor Horn-style production calls to mind the Pet Shop Boys and odd Sub Pop signings, The Postal Service. The chaps get to flex their not inconsiderable vocal muscle here on the tight choral harmonies. A bit of a dip in pace.

'Golden Age'

More elegiac and up-lifting brass based soul pop. This album is already proving to be more forward looking, and fundamentally stereo and dance floor orientated than the disappointing Return To Cookie Mountain. They have a hit song here. Well, in any other time but this crushingly conservative one we live in, this would be a hit. But will it get a single release?

'Family Tree'

A potentially rose-tinted look at childhood creates sonic textures of times past and barely remembered in the style of Boards of Canada. Here the epic and overstated sound of a baby grand echoing down wooden floored corridors recalls dimly remembered visits to church and junior schools. Imagine a Ladies and Gentlemen era Spiritualized but concerned with the beautiful mundanity of family life rather than drug abuse and heartbreak. There are perhaps even darker forces at play here: "From the shadows of the gallows of your family tree / There's a hundred hearts or three / Put the blood to the roots of evil to keep them free."

'Red Dress'

Although I'm initially disappointed that this is not a cover version of the Sugababes classic, I'm delighted to report it's even better. This is a fat slab of stone to the bone, dirty motherfucking funk courtesy of Fresh era Sly and the Family Stone, Thin White Duke/Young Americans Bowie and Sign O' The Times Prince. "You're such a good dancer – come on, you're the star!" goes the refrain over a Jimmy Smith like turn on the ivories. Wow, goddamn! Get off your ass and jam!

'Love Day'

This is a slow building number and another dip in pace but a song where the live instrumentation really breathes, forming a rich analogue base for Tunde's sumptuous voice. TVOTR have noticeably been in thrall to Radiohead in the past (when the band was just Kip Malone and Tunde, they released a demo called OK Calculator) but this is perhaps the first time that they have totally stepped out of this not insubstantial shadow. Imagine Radiohead with the J.B.s. Yeah, imagine TV On The Radiohead! YEAH!

'Shout Me Out'

A back to their roots, lo-fi electronic DIY concoction – and another song with hit single potential. It rollicks along before bursting into a Violent Femmes sprint with a satisfyingly crunchy breakcore rhythm to the psych punk wig out near the end. It made me jump out of my chair and punch the air like Judd Nelson at the end of Breakfast Club. YES!

'DLZ'

Only one consonant away from being London's popular dubstep night, is this a coincidence? Well, yes, probably. But there is something of the gun metal scraping along concrete stairwells of the post trip hop beats of early Burial here with none of the hysteria or claustrophobia. But wait a second – has Tunde just declared himself a "dub professor"? It's too hard to tell. I've got it on too loud.

'Lover's Day'

Lovely apocalyptic stuff. A militaristic tattoo leads us Pied Piper-like to the end of the album – easily their best so far and the best thing they've done since their awesome Young Liars EP. This is the album they were always bound to make. It is uplifting, melodic, skew-wiff pop based around the experimental and the DIY. Finally they have proved themselves to be up there with Liars as the most interesting band to come out of the Williamsburg scene.

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