TV on the Radio
Nine Types of Light
First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2011, Volume 18, #9
Written by John Metzger
Thu December 1, 2011, 05:30 AM CST
TV on the Radio has long been a cult favorite as well as the darling of rock critics everywhere. The groupís albums have served as escapist soundtracks for a world gone awry. Over the past decade, TV on the Radio has fashioned a career from its penchant for reflecting the chaos of modern life within the framework of its atmospheric, art-rock arrangements, while simultaneously dousing its material in late-night dance grooves plucked from a futuristic urban setting. With its latest offering Nine Types of Light, the outfit undeniably has taken a shot at reaching a wider audience, though it never feels for a moment as if the outfit sacrificed its integrity in the process.
It is immediately apparent that the material on Nine Types of Light is far friendlier than the jaggedly disoriented fare that dominated Return to Cookie Mountain. TV on the Radio hasnít necessarily abandoned the eerie effects that adorned the latter setís arrangements. Instead, with Nine Types of Light, the group has maximized the warmth that the underlying soul-infused rhythms provide. At times, such as on the opening Second Song, the beats coalesce and begin to push and pound at the material with all of the relentless momentum of a nightclubís dance floor. Yet, the softer moments that permeate Nine Types of Light, like the National-style slow grind TV on the Radio applied to the verses of Keep Your Heart, lend a seductive quality to the entirety of the endeavor.
Although TV on the Radio has found ways of more sharply defining its melodies, it still draws heavily from the oeuvre of David Bowie. Much of Nine Types of Light falls squarely between the groovy detachment of Station to Station and the textural dissonance of Outside. Yet, peering beyond the influence that weighs most heavily upon the group, one is apt to find hints of Peter Gabriel, Talking Heads, Meddle-era Pink Floyd, and Prince ó not to mention The Beatles and The Beach Boys ó wafting through the fray. In addition, whether itís intentional or not, portions of Repetition sound like they could have been plucked from the playbook of moe., while the aggressive, post-punk flow of No Future Shock invokes XTC.
There is nothing wrong with zeal, per se, but TV on the Radio has always stuffed more ideas into its songs and albums than was really necessary. For the record, Nine Types of Light is likely as ambitious as any of the groupís efforts. The majestic beauty of Killer Crane alone proves this point. In fact, many of the tracks on the endeavor pass through an array of phases, as TV on the Radio alters its tempos and injects new ideas into its material so frequently that it almost feels like the band is afraid that if it stays in one place for too long its fans will lose interest in what it is saying.
The difference, though, is that with Nine Types of Light, TV on the Radio has made the diverse textures of its output sound considerably less scattershot than they have in the past. Linked via the age-old lyrical concerns of love and loss, the songs become movements in a grand symphony, and the maturation of the band means the arrangements fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Some fans have taken issue with the dreamy aura that hangs over TV on the Radioís new material. In truth, however, with Nine Types of Light, the group has found the kind of balance that previously had been missing from its work.
Of Further Interest...
Nine Types of Light is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2011 The Music Box