I've been trying (and failing) to review the new album from New York's TV On The Radio for a week and a half now and I'm pleased to report that I'm still stumped. Yes, this reviewer is lost for words (well almost) but bear with me for this is not any old indie rock album made by any old band. This is an album created from the heart, an album fashioned by a collective at the experimental vanguard, an album if you can believe it that defies typical classification.
R.T.C.M. is certainly not a pop record as all eleven songs contained within its beautiful artwork clock in at the four minute plus mark. It's not a rock album in the traditional sense, for there's a lack of egotistical soloing and most songs ignore the good old 'verse, chorus, verse' format. It's most certainly not a soul or dance album either, you won't be pulling shapes to this record. Quite why others have felt the need to talk this album up as this year's answer to the Arcade Fire's 'Funeral' is beyond this reviewer. Such sloppy comparisons fail to do justice to an album that's in a league of its own.
This album is quite magnificent and a significant step up from the band's warmly received debut 'Desperate Youth Blood Thirsty Babes'. It displays an ethereal beauty and depth of imagination that's a depressing rarity in a lot of modern music. TV On The Radio prove here that something new and interesting can be fashioned from the old musical forms without sounding dusty or retro. The driving 'Wolf Like Me' is the closest the band come to a traditional song and even that number features a bizarre slowed down middle section. Celebrity fan David Bowie lends under-stated back-up vox to the shimmering, experimental shoegaze of 'Province', one of a number of standout moments on offer. The ace in the pack for TVOTR though is the soulful sweet vocals of front-man Tunde Adebimpe, they rarely sound better here than on the awesome 'A Method' – a clattering rhythmic beast of a tune whose mantra-like vocals resonate with a near hypnotic aura. Rhythm is you feel as important a feature to this album perhaps even more so than the intriguing lyrics which shed light on a world in turmoil while offering hope in the darkest of corners. Guitarist/producer Dave Sitek and cohort Kyp Malone also presents themselves as all action avant-garde, anti-guitar heroes, not for them re-hashed blues licks and long drawn out fret frippery. Instead their styles blend seamlessly into something more unique, more abstract, less ego driven – check out the particularly impressive opener 'I Was A Lover' for just one example of this.
'Return To Cookie Mountain' may seem like an impenetrable album to the casual music fan but give it time to seep into your consciousness and you'll soon appreciate just how good this record is. Sadly even my superlatives can't do it justice.