Let’s face it: People tend to judge prematurely. For the avid music lovers out there, basing selections of new music solely on a first impression can be a serious detriment to their music collection. Case in point: TV on the Radio.
Despite the childish name of the band’s new album, Return to Cookie Mountain, it is anything but infantile. Already boasting success from its previous releases Desperate Youth and Bloodthirsty Babes, New Health Rock and Young Liars, TV on the Radio (TVOTR) has received critical acclaim for eclectically melding doo-wop, indie rock and synthesized music. It’s no surprise that Return to Cookie Mountain is only going to reinforce the reputation TVOTR has received from some critics as “one of the most musically innovative bands to have emerged in years.”
It’s safe to say that if you dig bands like The Walkmen, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and (this is somewhat of a stretch) Interpol, then you’ll love TVOTR. On earlier records, lead singer Tunde Adebimpe rivaled Peter Gabriel’s high vocal range, only to transition into a lower, throatier range with seemingly easy fluidity. These albums are comparative to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Fever to Tell with their erratic music and singing, though Return to Cookie Mountain takes a more chilled-out approach to their style. Adebimpe’s voice still peaks in many of the songs, but maintains a soft, almost whisper-like sound with backup vocals from Kyp Malone. For the most part, the vocals are raw and almost folksy, though they strangely befit the synthetic sound that comprises most of the album.
Unfortunately, the lyrics are not syntactical gems, but rather somewhat clichÃ©d and simplistic, turning out to be just the type of wordplay that is expected of similar bands. In no way is this to say that the lyrics take on the predictability or silliness of a Blink 182 song, but it’s clear that the verbal beauty of bands like The Decemberists isn’t found among TVOTR’s songs.
Despite this, the band more than compensates by showing its creativity in the way the song is played and sung, rather than in the contents thereof. Every song on the CD manages to distinctively identify the artist while being altogether different from the next. It’s incredibly evident that the band has been experimenting with other styles than on previous albums. “I was a Lover” carries on a steady drumbeat for the majority of the song as support for the instrumental interchange of piano/keyboard and synthesizer, as well as the wide vocal range of the lead singer.
Perhaps the most distinctive song is “Blues from down Here,” which incorporates the influence of afro-pop and African tribal chanting and beats. This may sound strange if you’re not listening to the music, but the band mixes it so well that the transitioning of tempos and harmonies is unnoticeable to the untrained ear.
The best part of the CD is the fact that each song does not sound like a carbon copy of the next, yet the album manages to maintain an overall mellow sound. Adebimpe’s voice rolls over every smoothly played note, creating an amazing CD fit for any mood.
For new listeners, TVOTR is sure to impress. For longtime fans, it definitely won’t disappoint.