Friday, July 07, 2006

TV on the Radio

Firstly, one of the coolest band names going around.
TV on the radio are one of those bands I always heard about but had never heard any music, so never got around to buying their records, then, about a year ago, in an impulsive rush, I picked up their 2004 debut, 'Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes' (again, what a great title), and whacked it on the stereo.
Immediately I was assulted by 'The Wrong Way' and it's neveau-jazz tenor saxophone cacophony over a one-note bassline that can only be described as 'driving'. With broken-time drum loops, fuzz guitar, and potent political lyrics ("your guns are pointing the wrong way"), I instantly fell in love.

Rock music as avant-garde and original as this is rarely any good, and even more rarely finds its way from New York to the backwaters of Australia, but here they are. And we're richer for it.
'Dreams', the first single, with it's dub-heavy percussion and dreamy guitars (I think they are guitars) reminds the listener that it's not all totally weird rock/dub/electronica/gospel/blues, but retains a melodic intensity that shines through all but the most proggy wig-out.
The highpoint comes about half way, with 'Poppy', which for one third of it's 6 minute length is a soaring, triumphant, guitar-driven (it's definitely a guitar this time) rock epic, sounding like The Strokes, with enormous testicles, and less need to be danceable. But then, about 2 miuntes in, the song shifts gear into an amazing acapella doo-wop version of the same song. It's nothing short of incredible.
TV on the radio have captured the artistic integrity and creative spirit of bands like Yes, Mogwai, and even a bit of King Crimson, distilled it, and brought it screaming into the now. It's terrific.

Which brings me to the new record, 'Return to Cookie Mountain'. If 'DY,BB' opener, 'The Wrong Way' was difficult, then 'I Was a Lover' is positively impossible. Dischordant strings float over 'Pyramid Song'-style drum patterns, with the occasional sound of the CD skipping. Lyrics are there, but you can't quite see where they fit. And then, and second beat kicks in, skittering in under the radar, and suddenly the song gels. And probably not the first time you hear it. This is song making of the highest order.
However, the album never quite follows through on the promise to be even zanier than the debut, and thankfully, the band pull it off with aplomb. Hours, with it's humming Hammond organ and high vocals, sets a high precedent for accessible art-rock, followed by the Bowie-esque 'Province' which funnily enough features a backing vocal by the man himself. It is a testament to the confidence of TVotR that, even when the services of such a luminary are available, he is relegated to a muffled backing vocal.
'Wolf Like Me' is pounding hyper-rock, and 'Dirtywhirl' sounds exactly as it's title should.

10/10 for both records.

PS - I will be seeing these guys at the forum on July 23rd, so expect a report on what will hopefully be a great show.


Post a Comment

<< Home