TV on the Radio | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Monday, January 27th, 2020  

TV on the Radio

Scientists of Political Pop

Nov 01, 2008 Year End 2008 - Best of 2008
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“I feel dumb for being on the road promoting a record; I feel like I should be learning how to grow my own food,” says TV on the Radio’s vocalist/guitarist Kyp Malone, referring to the economic crisis in the United States. “The whole thing seems like a big card game played with a bunch of cheaters. The worst thing about it, from a human perspective, is the people who have been suffering from the injustices of the economic system are going to bear the brunt of the greedy pigs’ tomfoolery at the top. If there isn’t some complete change of value systems, there is going to be a lot of pain and suffering ahead.”

Even casual fans of the Brooklyn-based quintet are aware of TV on the Radio’s unabashed political views. They have never shied away from protesting the Iraq war, expressing their displeasure with George W. Bush, their alignment with Barack Obama, nor their disgust with the greediness of Wall Street. As Malone stands in a Wal-Mart parking lot somewhere in the middle of Pennsylvania talking into the phone, the irony isn’t lost on him.  

“I’m saying all this recognizing that I’m fully a part of it,” he says. “Most of us are. We live in an   economic system that is perpetually swallowing and consuming, yet we live on a finite planet. It has an end.” Dear Science stands as the band’s most political release to date, although upon hearing the album, listeners might not pick up on the criticism of the Bush administration, (which TVOTR only hinted at on previous releases), as it is largely wrapped up in pristine pop music.

“We already made this giant clod of noise and we wanted to mix it up,” says Malone in regard to their prior album, 2006’s Return to Cookie Mountain. “We grew up listening to lots of stuff that was noisy in nature because of how it was recorded. I still like that music, but, at the same time, there is a lot to be said for clarity, of sound. To really achieve clarity, you have to be more disciplined and more nuanced with what you’re putting down. You can hide a lot of ambiguity and indecision behind layers of distortion, but if you put things down clean, then the warts and all show up. We’re a better band now and we know more about what we’re trying to do, so we felt confident about making a clearer, better-produced record.”

Although producer/multi-instrumentalist Dave Sitek, vocalist Tunde Adebimpe, and Malone largely have been the TVOTR songwriting triumvirate, Dear Science marks the first time bassist/multi-instrumentalist Gerard Smith and drummer/ multi-instrumentalist Jaleel Bunton have contributed equally to the creative process.

“Jaleel and Gerard had progressively more significant hands in making the music,” explains Malone. “I feel they were involved with the last record but more of their sensibility came into this one.” In fact, one of the album’s shining achievements, the ’80s R&B/pop influenced “Crying,” actually came from Bunton. “I heard some music Jaleel had laid down,” Malone continues, “and I could hear the chorus on top of it immediately and so I cut it up and tried different things with instrumentation and worked on it till it came together.”

For Dear Science, TVOTR also collaborated with numerous members of the world fusion group Antibalas, which led to rumors of a TV on the Radio/Antibalas record being in the can. “There is definitely a lot of material that includes people from both bands,” says Malone. “But I think it would be misleading to say there is potentially a secret TV on the Radio/Antibalas album recorded somewhere.”

Dear Science isn’t the only project involving TVOTR members generating buzz these days. Adebimpe has announced a yet-to-be-named side project with former Faith No More vocalist Mike Patton and Doseone of the underground hip-hop group cLOUDDEAD, and has also showed off his big screen acting chops alongside Anne Hathaway in director Jonathan Demme’s return to form, Rachel Getting Married. Malone hasn’t exactly been resting on his laurels either. Having co-produced the self-titled debut album by Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, he is also collaborating with Eric Aites’ band Iran and is in the process of finishing his solo album under the band name Rain Machine. However, Malone is reluctant to disclose any clues as to how the Rain Machine debut album will sound.

For now, he is still loitering in a Wal-Mart parking lot, promoting Dear Science, an album whose title and lyrical content apparently have been misconstrued as a dismissal of technological advancement. “I’m not going to knock science completely,” he says. “That would be ridiculous. There are tons of people within the scientific community who are conscious and concerned and trying to advance things and make people aware of how fucked we are.”



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