I didn't get it at first. I thought to myself "what is this amalgam of unintelligible sonic bantering?". But that's mostly because I didn't get it. It took me a while to swallow down TV On The Radio's EP Desperate Youths, Bloodthirsty Babies and actually remains, to this day my least favorite album of theirs. It wasn't until Return to Cookie Mountain, their first LP, that I realized you cannot approach this band with the typical rubric of rock. To be quite honest, anything TV On The Radio isn't lent to accessibility and anyone who says they liked any of their albums upon listening to its entirety is probably full of shit. But no indie rock nerd would ever admit that of course. Great bands are great from the beginning and instantly win over an audience with their greatness. This of course, is false. The truth of the matter is that any album worth it's weight in awesomeness will never be an easy listen. You'll shut it off half way through and wonder what you were thinking, buying into the hype. That is certainly how I felt. How could I buy into this indie-noise bullshit? I thought I was smarter than that. Well I'm not, but that is completely beyond the point, which is that Dear Science is the best piece of rock this band has come out with yet. That's right kids, believe the hype...
Dear Science is the much awaited sophomore LP from the David Bowie School of Rock rockers, TV On The Radio. This band has gotten better and better and more articulate and focused with each album release. In conjunction with the album release, of course, they are on tour and played recently at the Wiltern in Hollywood. This isn't the best venue they could have chosen-as some of you concert-goers may be well aware of-although it was a pretty good show nevertheless. The opening band, Dirtbombs, put on an excellent show and to be quite honest almost upstaged our headliners. TV On the Radio, however came out with full force and established momentum immediately.Dear Science frames that momentum, and the opening song Halfway Home charges forward with a pulsing hook and subdued vocal harmonics. One thing you notice immediately about Dear Science is the stronger melodies. The rhythms are less abstract, the vocals a little more competent and daring. There is a freshness, a crispness about this new album which gives it a liveliness that previous albums lacked. This album is overall much more musical than anything they've done before.
That being said, TV On The Radio still do some strange things sonically that can be difficult to duplicate on stage. Given the scope of instrumentation and tools they implement in their songs, their live set was well chosen; they managed to play many of their more popular songs(and do them justice) and avoided songs that may have been difficult to play from a technical standpoint. For instance they avoided many of their songs from their EP, except for "Staring At The Sun". The most disappointing part of the concert was their lackluster performance of "Wolf Like Me". The tempo was off and the guitars washed out (partly due to the bad acoustics at The Wiltern). Since this tour followed the release of their new album, they played many songs from it, including "Dancing Choose", "Halfway Home", and "Crying". Overall though, TV On The Radio are great to see live. Tunde, the lead singer jumps flails and thrashes about with reckless abandon. They closed their set with "Staring At The Sun", a single from their Desperate Youths... EP.
Their new album also displays more subdued, softer, lilting numbers, such as "Love Dog" and "Family Tree" which are minimalist in structure compared to the rest of the album, but are some of the most beautiful songs the band has written thus far. If you are a fan of TVOTR, you will not be dissapointed. the lighter funk-infused elements make this a fun album to listen to and goes down much sweeter than previous albums.It shows a more confident, capable band beginning to apex as musicians. If you are new to TVOTR, I would start off with this album. It's poppy tendencies and catchy hooks make it a much more accessible album than their previous releases. This album is a little more free from the confines of overly-serious hyper-self analytical waxing that their previous releases (and many bands for that matter) are hindered by.
That being said, this lighter, airy album does not carry the serious weight of Return To Cookie Mountain. No single holds the gravity and conveys the passion and fervor of "Wolf Like Me", or "Staring At the Sun". Production value has taken a front seat on this album and there is a heavier emphasis on string sections that lilt and float along with Tunde's vocals. Dear Science isn't the genre-crushing debut that Return To Cookie Mountain was, not the center of gravity in the art-rock genre that their previous albums were, but it's hard to rock and move with so much gravity weighing you down anyway.