Words: Simon Opie
TV On the Radio have returned after a short break, during which they moved the centre of their operations from Brooklyn to LA. And who can blame them for that - main man David Sitek has suggested the new album benefitted greatly from having the BBQ on demand throughout recording. I guess a combination of surroundings and critical acclaim creates a positive atmosphere for making music and 'Nine Types Of Light' certainly communicates joy as its primary emotion.
It returns to the dense production style of 2006's 'Return To Cookie Mountain', but retains the eclectic song format of the much-feted, spare sounding 'Dear Science' from 2008. Although the band have already won many awards, and plaudits from the press, this new album is going to make them even bigger. It is a huge collection of great songs referencing influences from Massive Attack to James Brown and from Prince to They Might Be Giants.
In fact, I assumed opener 'Second Song' actually featured Bill Callahan (aka Smog), as it opens with a vocal phrase that sounds exactly like him, but then the song takes off into a groove entirely of its own. It's a terrific start and the quality doesn't flag too often throughout the remainder of the album.
Amongst many highlights are the lead-off single 'Will Do', with its oh so catchy melody, 'Forgotten'; a laid-back, acid-eye view of Beverley Hills; and 'Killer Crane', a delicate anthem to reaching a peace through acceptance.
So success is often a double edged sword but it seems that with freedom and confidence, TV On The Radio have taken the opportunity to make an album of unashamedly beautiful songs. It's a great choice and it suits them perfectly because the multi-layered production ensures that they are always challenging and entertaining to listen to.
Then there's the subject matter - and here's the sting in the tail - because for all the blissed out music, many of the lyrics are pretty dark. Some of the songs are intensely personal, but many reflect on the state of the world. Just listen to 'Repetition' for example, and it becomes obvious that the album is often a contrast of form and substance: "But I can't stop thinking how it's all gone wrong, and the cracks will be obvious before too long" - yes, we're truly fiddling while Rome, or in this case LA, burns.
Note: As I wrote this review, I learned that TVOTR's bassist and keyboard player Gerard Smith had died from lung cancer after a too-brief fight. It's very sad news and our sympathies go out to his friends and family.
Purchase 'Nine Types Of Light' from your local record shop, Amazon.co.uk, iTunes etc.