TV On the Radio undergoes transformation

No one can deny that TV on the Radio is the hottest band in America. Although the band started as blues rockers, they’ve always delved into bizarre, awesome electronic sonicscapes.
    But TV’s new album, “Dear Science,” delves into glam rock-styled jazz songs as well, in a transformation that is as shocking, cutting-edge and awesome as the last few Radiohead albums.
    TV on the Radio has always had an incredible streak of creativity in their records. Their previous record, “Return to Cookie Mountain,” was an outrageous guitar protest album like no other. The guitar sounds swirled around like tsunami winds as Tunde Adebimpe sang creepy lyrics through a booming, echoing microphone.
    Their third outing, “Dear Science,” is a complete switch from their typical deafening noise-rock to snazzy jazz electronics. Their immediate shift to electronics is just as sudden as Radiohead’s shift to abstract ambient electronics and string orchestras. While the sounds are completely different, TV makes up for the lack of sound with gorgeous string orchestrations.
    It’s a brilliant masterpiece in sound, which focuses more on the majestic beauty of their instrumentation. “Stork & Owl” is filled with marvelous violins and cellos. Rhodes Jaleel Bunton also drums some wonderful cavalry drum rolls. And Adebimpe gives the most unusual narrative about a stork and an owl, singing “‘What’s this dying for?’/Asks the Stork that soars/With the Owl high above…Owl said ‘Death’s a door/That love walks through/In and out, back and forth.'” It’s especially charming to hear Adebimpe sing songs about shelter from the storm for once, especially after his apocalyptic musings on the previous album.
    But there’s even more radical changes. “Golden Age” is an awesome, quiet disco-funk rocker. The bassist plays an awesome beat as the guitarist plays a simple, but infectious rhythm. Soon enough, the string ensemble surrounds Adebimpe’s disorienting little rap about the Golden Age coming “like a natural disaster/all blowing up like a ghetto blaster.”
    TV on the Radio even pulls off some soft ambient electronics in the song “Love Dogs,” in which Adebimpe and his friends sing lovely soft “Oohs” to the dulcimer keyboard and techno drumbeat in the background. Adebimpe takes on beautiful lyrics of himself as a lonely love dog, singing “Nameless you above me/Come lay me low and love me/This lonely little love dog/That no one knows the name of.” The string ensemble sounds gorgeous with the soft techno drum beat and the lyrical “Oohs” swirling everywhere in the background.
    While Adebimpe noticeably has much more solo singing in this album, without other backup people singing one octave higher, he has never sounded cooler than this. At the same time, he’s shooting down racism as much as he can in his awesome rap in the song “Red Dress.” He’s really upset with modern America, singing “‘Hey Slave,’ they called…We answered to a new name/Shout it loud, shout it lame/But black, face it/you’re such a good dancer/Oh you’re a star, you’re a carnival.”
    As infectious as the song is, with glam guitar strums, trumpets, bongos and disco drums in the background, I’ve never heard Adebimpe as furious as this. And he doesn’t even need loud guitars to back his rhetoric up.
    The album “Dear Science” proves that TV on the Radio is the most original rock band in this day and age, with more innovative twists than even Kele Okelele from Bloc Party can pull off. They’ve managed to somehow be cool and artsy at the same time. In the past, one could have called TV the best blues rock band in the world as well, but nowadays, they’re more than a blues-rock band—they’re an electronic blues art rock phenomenon.
    Radiohead may need to watch out, because TV on the Radio is starting to become just as hot as they are.

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