TV on the Radio
Return to Cookie Mountain
First Appeared in The Music Box, October 2006, Volume 13, #10
Written by John Metzger
If the critical accolades that have been slathered upon TV on the Radio’s major label debut Return to Cookie Mountain have proven anything, it’s that the disorienting worlds and freakish re-mixes spawned by David Bowie’s Outside were far ahead of their time. A sizable portion of the set is devoted to ruminations upon Bowie’s bizarre, electronic soundscapes, and Bowie himself turns in a barely audible appearance on Province. Yet, the manner in which the band repeatedly atomizes and reassembles Outside’s components — most notably, The Heart’s Filthy Lesson and Hallo Spaceboy — succeeds in keeping the collection from feeling like a rote remake.
Bowie, of course, had slathered TV on the Radio’s debut Desperate Youth, Blood-Thirsty Babes with an enormous amount of praise, but the affair was so overstuffed with ideas that it often seemed as if the ensemble was in desperate need of a Ritalin fix. Although Return to Cookie Mountain features a similar blend of falsetto vocals, colliding samples, white noise, skittering rhythms, and Prince-ly soul, TV on the Radio has taken more care in sculpting its arrangements. In effect, it has merged its cold, calculated artistry with a warmer, more organic tonality. At times, its harmonies approach the painted beauty of the Beach Boys, and its psychedelic collages bear hints of The Beatles. When fused together on a track like Hours, it’s as if the collective’s influences have been dipped into a cauldron of acid, and in a burst of lysergic glory, the resulting explosion casts the rainbow-hued glow of its radioactive fallout skyward.
Undoubtedly, TV on the Radio’s densely atmospherical and brutally intense assault is, at first, off-putting, yet, given a chance, it also is unwavering in its ability to mesmerize. Still, the stripped-down A Method, which is tucked neatly into the center of the set, is where the startling precision of the band’s arrangements is sharply brought into focus. Granted, Return to Cookie Mountain never quite achieves transcendence, and it requires the utmost amount of patience in order to comprehend the ensemble’s dizzying displays. Outside T Bone Burnett’s The True False Identity, however, there also isn’t a more demanding album to be released in 2006 that is worth the expenditure of energy necessary to grasp it. ˝
Of Further Interest...
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2006 The Music Box