TV on the Radio are one of those bands that people 25 years from now will listen to and say that’s what the ’00s were like. TVotR’s “life-during-wartime bellow that nailed our post-post-9/11 ennui” has been well-documented, not least because the band formed just after 9/11, but the epoch-defining quality of this band goes further than their evocation of dread, suspicion, ambivalence, and boredom. They are the first (pop) band I know of to use inorganic sounds (that is, electronic sounds meant to sound like they emanate from no instrument played with hands; possibily the buzz and hum in the foreground of so many TVotR songs is the White Noise of Don DeLillo) to do some other than evoke dread, suspicion, etc. They use the growl and hiss and chatter of dial-up modems and dead phone lines and blown tube amps and on-the-fritz iPods and overheated laptops and interrupted cell phone service to call forth, sometimes, joy, pleasure, regret — the big-time sweaty heavy-breath emotions. The ones that wear you out. No coincidence that “Wear You Out” is the final track on their first full-length.
And, in world where more and more pop music seems to be defined solely by what influences it has combined (as if making worthwhile art were as easy as mixing up a batch of frozen margaritas in a blender; would that that were true), TVotR seem like their own men. It is curious when you can spot the influence, where TVotR seem to pull from an alternative canon: David Bowie, Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, Pixies, Talk Talk, barbershop quartets, Brooklyn noise (am I the only one picking up heavy TVotR vibes on the new Animal Collective record?), even Tom Petty (listen closely to the verse on “Shout Me Out”). Plus, what they do just sounds so right. At their best (these tunes, “Staring At The Sun,” “Blind,” “Wolf Like Me,” “I Was A Lover,” “A Method,” “Tonight,” “Golden Age”), it’s hard to believe that these songs haven’t always existed.
In conclusion: TV on the Radio fucking rules.
Interview with lead singer Tunde Adebimpe (includes the money quote: “Or these scientists who are working on making a self-contained black hole—how short is that victory party going to be? And how quickly is someone going to turn that to the worst application? It’s like, “We made a black hole!” “Oh cool, can we watch sex on it?” “No, not really.” “Can we kill someone with it?” “Probably.””)
Buy it here (uh, and how come when I search for “tv on the radio” on amazon, the first thing that pops up is Steve Harvey’s relationship advice book?)
Posted by Glenn