[There’s often more behind the discovery of an album than just the music. Here’s S. Ziggy Zagami’s review of TV on the Radio’s “Return to Cookie Mountain” & “Dear Science”. If you would like to share your One album – One story, we’d love to post it.]
TV On The Radio are a five piece band from Brooklyn, NY created by multi-instrumentalist David Andrew Sitek and vocalist Tunde Adebimpe. Their music is a melting pot of styles like their city of origin. What I love most about their style is that it’s all over the place. They never deliver the same thing twice – their truly original and intrinsically modern touch is quite a feat to pull-off in a time when music is so old you can’t help finding a lot of new music to be a rehash of something gone before.
So it is with great shame that what prompted me to really listen to TVotR was one of the most average and rehashed movies I have seen of late, “Never Back Down”. My insatiable appetite had led me to consume pretty much every new released film at the DVD library, and in my apprehension to really search through the rest of the stores catalog, I just picked up “Never Back Down” – a modern remake of the “Karate Kid” but with a modern take.
Now I went to film school, and at times I can be critical, but in other ways I have never really seen a film that I couldn’t sit through, I have never walked out on a film, and if you asked me what I thought of a particular movie I would probably just probably tell you it was “good”. But I am just giving you the excuses as to why I sometimes watch crap. I know its crap and I just submit to it, sometimes you just need that escape.
So in the obligatory training montage, my ears pricked up as I heard the low-fi fuzz sounds of this intense but ultimately fun grooving rock song. It was
“Wolf Like Me” off the album “Return to Cookie Mountain”. It was not the first time I had heard it, I was already familiar with this and some other singles from TVotR courtesy of my much loved favorite radio station, Triple J. But maybe at the time I was just not ready for it musically, probably because I was obsessing over something else.
But I was instantaneously obsessed with this song and this sound as it consumed my entire being. I’d listen to it repeatedly on Youtube. I asked a friend of mine about TVotR, because on music he can be as informative as Wikipedia but with an opinion. And of course he knew this band and liked them and played me his favorite track right then and there – it was
“Staring at the Sun” from their second album “Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes”.
Well off I went to HMV to buy “Return to Cookie Mountain”. Now I don’t know if this is a done thing here or if it’s just my imagination but every time there seems to be a new release of a album or a book, the stores tend to remove the artist’s entire back-log and only display 50 or more copies of the new release. No matter where I went all I could find was “Dear Science”. So I just bought that one and I have got to say that the first time I played it I was disappointed, the album didn’t sound like “Wolf Like Me”.
But I soon fell in love with “Dear Science”. While it was a slightly different sound from “Return To Cookie Mountain”, it is not a complete departure. It’s just different like ordering beef, and getting chicken or something.
“Dancing Choose” a dance tune that starts with only a low-fi buzz accompanying a flurry of vocals that are borderline-rap and then progresses to handclaps, a ping-pong guitar hook, a wonderful horn section and harmonized vocals in the choruses.
Their big tune
“Golden Age” is a funkedelic-feel good dance tune – one of those tracks that reminds us that life is still good, and that we are youthful and up until recently had been living in a “Golden Age”, but the sun will shine again.
Another notable track on the album in their up-tempo repertoire is
“Crying” . An easily likable track with its pop beat and smooth falsetto vocals, but in the same time also containing some of the darker undertones on the album.
I also like
“Shout Me Out” for those softer moments. This track is a slow burner that gradually builds as they add more and more layers, and as Adebimpe amps up the intensity in his vocals.
The next track on the album is another TVotR classic
“DLZ” Again this displays common themes for TVotR, low-fi in the intro that gets louder and louder as the vocals get ferocious.
“Return To Cookie Mountain”
I’m the sort of person that after a few listens embraces the whole album, always capable of finding something worth-while in every song. So it wasn’t surprising that when I saw “Return to Cookie Mountain” return to the shelves, I bought it, hungry for more TVotR. But when I first listened to the album I was again in a state of disappointment. Yeah this album had “Wolf Like Me” not to mention
“Province” A big selling point for me, not only a fantastic track but it featured a famous TVotR fan, Mr David Bowie (I am a huge Bowie fan and this pairing was definite winner for me).
But I felt the rest of the album was a bit lackluster. Probably because I was looking to be amped up with the intensity I found on “Wolf Like Me”. However, this album is more atmospheric and introverted. Soon enough though the more I listened to it the more I adapted to its mellowness. Or maybe it was just right for my mood as I started to wallow in depression. I often wonder if I listen to music that reflects my mood or if my mood starts to reflect the music that I listen to.
Anyway I really like the way this album opens.
“I Was A Lover” is a case in point to my theories that this is an introverted lament to love, but I like how this seemingly soft song is filled with expressive noise that seems to scream.
There is also
“Hours” a track that seems to fuse at the end of the album in
“Tonight” through its cooing hook.
Though for all its softer points this album is still full of solid rock and I love the bounciness of vocals and music alike on tracks like
I thoroughly recommend giving both of these albums a try, who knows, you might find something that you like. I found in the end that they are not too dissimilar, and that there are tracks from both that could be on the same album. The evolution of TVotR is only going to continue, so keep a watch out for them because even though “Dear Science” was at the top of the heap in ’08 they may soon be dominating in years to come.