Like so many of the Brooklyn bands whose music hit high in the early- to mid-2000s (The National, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol, hell, even The Hold Steady), TV On the Radio came into the 2010s with something to prove. By the time the first Nine Types of Light singles dropped earlier this year, they had released a body of critically acclaimed work with an uncanny ability to toe the line between polish and noise expertly at each outing, remaining fresh each time around. Nine Types of Light isn’t a reaffirmation of that talent – it’s a more-than-welcome step back.
Standout songs like “Repetition” the pre-release single “Caffeinated Consciousness” rock out with the best of the TVOTR oeuvre, both featuring impassioned vocals, raging guitars, and beautifully crowded production from Dave Sitek. Because the band never abandoned the form, it can’t be a return to form. Rather it’s a further exploration.
“Will Do” exemplifies this too. Somewhat surprisingly for such a dynamic band, TVOTR mastered relationship songs years ago, whether Tunde’s singing about cutting love (“Ambulance”) or fiending lust (“Wolf Like Me”). After a tenderly keyed xylophone intro he protagonist of “Will Do” just wants his lover to give what they’ve got a chance.
Before any of that starts, though, the album’s quizzically named lead track “Second Song” begins with Tunde Adebimpe almost quietly speak-singing over a subdued organ, percussion and guitars before anything else reminiscent of TV On the Radio fills out the corners of the song. That takes almost a minute and a half, and it’s a trend on this album. The band with something to prove lets us know fairly early on that, actually, it’s got nothing to prove. They’re TV On the fucking Radio.
Pavement’s (QRO live review) “Rattled by the Rush” (QRO video), from their own step-back album Wowee Zowee (QRO deluxe re-release review) operates the same way. It’s a Pavement song, no question, but where most Pavement tracks (especially the ones that were numbered second on their albums) had a profound pop sensibility about them, “Rattled by the Rush” features some of the most pronounced guitar soloing of anything on the album. On that track Malkmus and the gang flexed their muscles, and there’s no shame in it.
MP3 Stream: “Will Do”