Friday, March 30, 2012
Nine Types of Light - TV On The Radio
Nine Types of Light
TV On The Radio
When I first started hearing TV On the Radio on college radio, I liked them but they didn't knock my socks off. Then "Dear Science" came out and I was impressed enough to buy the CD which I really liked. But it was seeing the band live for the first time last summer at the Hollywood Bowl that finally knocked my socks off. Not only did they rock with style and power, but I was particularly impressed with Tunde Adebimpe's charisma, a quality that doesn't always translate to their records. They played about half of this album at the concert and I was impressed by the anthemic quality these songs acquired live. As you can tell from the title the prevalent theme on this record is light. Within the electromagnetic spectrum there are eight types of light, but this record is about a different sort of light, the ninth type of light is the light of enlightenment and love. This is evident in the first song of the album which is the amusingly titled "Second Song." The song is ambiguous, at first I thought it was a drug song, but then I realized that "the light" in the song refers to love and positive thinking. The song begins slowly but gradually swells in strength and sonic punch and then Adebimpe goes into his falsetto and the song takes off. It is my favorite song on the record. “When the night comes, I’m fiending like a pyrale” is one of my favorite lines of the past year, even if I had to look up what a pyrale means (it’s a moth.) “Keep Your Heart” is about the redemptive power of love against the harshness of the world. It sounds like a more restrained version of 80s synth pop and features a soulful vocal from Kyp Malone. “You” poignantly examines the wreckage of a relationship which the singer wishes hadn’t ended. “No Future Shock” describes the sorry state of the world and advises the listener to dance and live for today as if there were no tomorrow. “Killer Crane” is a gorgeous elegiac song that sets up a sustained feeling of loss and melancholy until it abruptly cuts off, that is a technique I’ve always hated. The Beatles did the same thing with “I Want You (She’s So Heavy) on "Abbey Road," it usually makes me think something is wrong with my turntable. That ends side one. Side two kicks off with "Will Do" in which a lover woos a partner reluctant to take a chance on a new relationship. It is a very seductive song, there is a slinky rhythm track layered with multiple synthesizers over which Adebimpe croons sweetly. He is pretty persuasive, it would take a really strong will to resist his blandishments. "New Cannonball Blues" abruptly shifts direction with a powerful funky tune embellished by a horn section and a smoking duet between Adebimpe and Malone. It is an inspirational song in which love helps overcome adversity. "Repetition" is the most frenetic song on the album, guaranteed to get you hopping. It has a catchy riff, buzzing synths, and a propulsive beat that never quits. It seems to be about a successful, driven capitalist who has qualms about his lifestyle and the people he has hurt. "Forgotten" starts slow, supported by a pretty string arrangement and then gradually builds in strength until it becomes almost cacophonous by the end. The song critiques the artificiality of the good life in Southern California. The noise continues with the booming beginning to "Caffinated Consciousness" which features a heavy, almost metallic riff. It is another inspirational song in which the narrator's "heart shines through" in the "cause of light." It gives the album a strong finish. This is a powerful and emotional record brimming with intelligence and compassion. I really admire the uplifting spirit behind so much of the music which is all the more remarkable considering that bassist Gerard Smith was dying as they were making it. Recommended for Prince fans who wish his lyrics were a little smarter.