TV On The Radio – [Album]

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Whether it’s intentional or not, some bands can’t seem to help but have a polarizing effect on all listeners with whom their music comes into contact. Whether it’s the combination of sounds that the group chooses to intermingle, the way they put those sounds together or even just the voices and effects used to administer the group’s ideas, listeners are instantly either turned on or put off of a band within seconds of sampling an album. There is no halfway point—in those opening seconds listeners either love what they’re hearing dearly or hate it bitterly. Such is the obstacle that bands like TV On The Radio have been trying to overcome for their whole careers.

For their newest offering, TV On The Radio take their formidable instrumental chops and feed their often very clinical and clean delivery through a legion of overtly computerized effects to see if there’s any personality left for them to remove. Clearly there must have been some remaining too as, from the halting, stunted and skittering bleat of “Halfway Home,” Dear Science takes great pains to sound as anonymous as possible.

Stated simply, the band does not wear the approach particularly very well. As you listen, you can actually hear the band compartmentalize all of the sounds that make up the record before putting a delineation miles wide between each container and call it a song. Tracks including “Dancing Choose,” “Golden Age,” “Family Tree” and “Shout Me Out” all play out this way, and function as individual collections of boxes that have been stacked neatly together; each has a space for soul guitar and vocals in the vein of Prince, driving textural glitches similar to Matmos and/or Oingo Boingo, the odd Living Color-esque flash of rockist musicality and, finally, enough irony to make Was Not Was and Devo proud. Yet, quizzically, none of these sounds intermingles in spite of each being present—by degrees—in all of the songs; each is there and a listener can point to those elements specifically, but there is no crossover between them.

In that way, what TV On The Radio has done with Dear Science will absolutely be a success in the band’s eyes. Since their 2004 EP New Health Rock, the band has been attempting—for whatever reason—to remove any semblance of personality from their music, even if it’s only the little bits that would inadvertently get included because the sounds were made by humans and thus let themselves be viewed simply as an iconic construct. Dear Science is, presumably, the pinnacle of that endeavor; it is certainly the most mechanical sound any band in recent memory has released.


TV On The Radio homepage
TV On The Radio myspace

“Crying” from Dear Science – [mp3]

Dear Science is available now. Buy it on Amazon.

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