TV on the Radio
Nine Types of Light
Apr 19, 2011 Web Exclusive
With their fourth full-length album, TV on the Radio has updated the term “art rock” for the new decade while indirectly pressing for a reconsideration of what qualifies as pop. Meanwhile, it’s to their credit that they’ve managed to evolve their sound with each record without resorting to transparently unnatural extremes in order to reach the next step. No need to throw in some squall or a Fender Rhodes if it doesn’t work in the moment.
David Bowie expressed admiration for the band with his guest appearance on 2006’s Return to Cookie Mountain, but it’s with Nine Types that they’ve taken their longest step toward highlighting the influence of Bowie’s late ’70s/early ’80s work and weaving it into a current context. One can’t help but imagine that their hero sees in them his early, unfettered creative pursuit, and sees the likelihood that TVOTR will be able to flower freely in their hothouse longer than Bowie’s celebrity allowed.
Where the band explored funk on 2008’s Dear Science, the mood here is generally tempered by comparison, and their melodic strengths hold sway in providing the real impact. Bass and drums carefully drive the sweet “Keep Your Heart,” a song with a sentiment that begs to be delivered in person. There’s an agreeably minimal trek over much of “You,” with its buzzing synths and guitar plucks, signaling that TVOTR could probably detour headlong toward electronic pop with ease if they felt the calling.
The band does loosen up here and there, particularly with the febrile “No Future Shock” and its prompt to “Do the no future,” and on the closing “Caffeinated Consciousness,” a lively, pounding nod to Pixies’ “U-Mass.” But Nine Types’ moments of beauty are at times so memorable that considerations of variation or sequencing are rendered inconsequential. With acoustic guitar strums, strings, vista-stretching synths, and a lovely vocal meditation, the six minutes of “Killer Crane” provide the heart to an album that’s filled with it. (www.tvontheradio.com)
Author rating: 8/10
Average reader rating: 8/10