For a band who were once absolutely amazing (see their 'Young Liars' EP for proof), TV On the Radio haven't half gone down the plughole in recent years. Seemingly incapable of making music to an acceptable standard, it will be interesting to see if they can turn things around with this, their 6th album. If not we can always reminisce about the time when they were young and the guitarists now grey beard was jet black.
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In the beginning TV on the Radio were a marvellous thing. Their ‘Young Liars’ EP was vibrant, innovative and suggested that a really great experimental rock band was here to stay. Sadly to these ears since then it’s been a slow descent into inconsequentiality. ‘Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes’ was as its titles suggest, good bit and bad bits, ‘Return to Cookie Mountain’ had some great moments but I hated the popular ‘Dear Science’ and didn’t bother with ‘Nine Types of Light’. They’ve survived death and their guitarist producing Beady Eye so how will their 6th album stand up?
Well, it’s not a complete disaster. There’s certainly something lacking in their sound these days and singer Tunde Adebimpe doesn’t sound quite as alien and unusual as he once did and the music is smoother. Much smoother. They still have something though, opener ‘Quartz‘ has a little bit of that early day spark in the fuzzy melodies and thumping low end but my issue with TV on the Radio these days is that they too commercially inclined. The songs are too obviously aimed at achieving radio respectability - it’s like they’ve been ironed. There’s some vibrancy on ‘Could You’ which belts along with catchy guitar lines and a simple but effective melody. ‘Happy Idiot’ too is radio friendly- bouncy rock with pulsating percussion and a nagging chorus.
Overall too smooth by half for fans of their earlier slightly idiosyncratic sound but it does enough to appease the shareholders at Virgin EMI.
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