Wednesday, January 19, 2011

TV on the Radio - Dear Science,

★★★★★ Tracks:

Halfway Home
Dancing Choose
Golden Age

I pre-ordered TV on the Radio's third record in the summer of 2008 and couldn’t wait for it to arrive at my doorstep. What I immediately noticed when the needle hit the vinyl was they weren't content on playing it safe. The group continued to evolve with each passing record, using the increasing big label production budgets and studio technology at their disposal to recreate themselves all over again. Whereas Desperate Youth, Blood Sucking Babes is the sound of the urban sprawl and Return to Cookie Mountain is the "music you will listen to when the whole world burns up," Dear Science, (derived from a note Sitek wrote in the studio stating, “Dear Science, please start solving problems and curing diseases or shut the fuck up.”) is the dance party in its aftermath; a record even grander in scope and sleekness than its predecessor. Embracing their funk and electro-pop influences, Dear Science’s core is driven by a heavy dosage of percussion and multilayered vocals; their second single, “Dancing Choose,” finds Adebimpe bringing his rap skills to the table over a speedy off-kilter 4/4 drum beat, “Red Dress” is a full on funk explosion, complete with drum samples, bongos and blaring horns, and “Love Dog” pushes the beat to the forefront while Adebimpe questions and yearns for a God. Although Sitek’s guitars and samples aren’t as dominant here, his role as lead producer is unparalleled. If there is any ego to these guys it is contained in their quest to continually challenge music's boundaries.

Dear Science, not only finds TV on the Radio at their most resourceful but also their most playful. I’ve never delved in to Prince’s records but I can’t help but think a lot of songs were inspired out of his music when I hear the dance-inspired “Love Dog,” “Golden Age” and “Crying.” TVOTR has always embraced the funk but they've included more of their pop sensibilities here too, and with the help of a couple of strong singles, Dear Science, peaked at #12 on the Billboard charts, making this their most accessible record yet. With all that said I’m amazed by how many people haven’t given TV on the Radio a proper listen, or even heard of them. This record crosses so many genres I’d have a hard time believing anyone who couldn’t find something to like in it. My favorite song, and one that might just match “Staring at the Sun” as my favorite TVOTR track overall, is “DLZ.” Never a band to shy from social commentary, “DLZ” is riddled in criticisms of the great evil forces science has constructed and the politicians who wield them, Adebimpe speaks of “death professors” and “forcing fires” before he finally warns with his last line, “this is beginning to feel like the dawn of the luz of forever.”

DLZ was used at the end of an episode of Breaking Bad, which ended up being one of the best scenes of the season.

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