Dear Science – TV on the Radio

Dear Science

TV on the Radio

Interscope

2008

TV on the Radio are interesting.  I honestly don’t remember how I found them, but I listened to Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes a lot.  A LOT.  Return to Cookie Mountain was really good too, but not quite as good as Desperate.  Tonight, I’ll be talking about their 2008 album, Dear Science.

“Halfway Home” is the opener, and right away, it sound similar to “Wolf Like Me” off of Cookie Mountain.  The vocals, not so much, but the rest of the song does at least.  The lead vocalist, Tunde Adebimpe, really is showing off from the get go here.  He has quite a few different sounds, and transitions between them flawlessly.  This is a really good track, and even though it slows down in the middle, it picks back up to be catchy as all hell through the end.

“Crying” is up next and is reminiscent of older TVotR sounds.  This really isn’t a complex sounding song, but has some cool nuances about it.  Foremost, the guitar is very simple, but has a nice sound that fits the rest of the song well.  Vocals are again a mix of falsetto and regular singing, but it fits the mood of the song well.

“Dancing Choose” is up next, and sounds like come bastard child of hip-hop and indie electronica.  Tunde is really on center stage here; the vocals are the focus.  And boy are they powerful.  You get the feeling that he is putting everything he has into every word.  The studio version of this song is really good, but personally, I prefer the live version.  They performed it multiple times on, ironically, television shows like Letterman and The Colbert Report just to name a few.  The band as a live act seem like they have much more emotion than when they recorded the album version.  Not that that’s a bad thing, quite the contrary actually.  I love to see that a band has tons of energy when playing a show.

“Stork & Owl” is a drastic slow down, with vocals standing out yet again.  Personally, I’m not a huge fan of this track.  To me, it seems like it’s all leading up to something, like a huge crescendo, but it’s kind of a let down at the end.  And that’s a big shame, considering the string work is so beautiful at the end.

“Golden Age” is the next track, and it sounds so familiar at the start.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it sounds like something else I’ve heard.  Thankfully, this is a better song that its predecessor.  At times, it sounds like a clusterfuck of noise, but damnit, they pull it off well.  Overall, a track that definitely is worth a good listen or a few.

The piano intro on “Family Tree” really is something else.  It’s not at all what I’d expect a TV on the Radio song to sound like, but it’s fantastic.  Tunde has some low rhythmic vocals, and the piano continues.  The song really has some fantastic instrumental work, not just the piano.  Dave Sitak did a fantastic job mixing this song in particular.  Definitely something different, but definitely something great.  This song really justifies a lot of the praise this album got.

“Red Dress” brings back the seemingly complex, but actually simple sound that TV on the Radio lives by.  This is another very good track, with a very differing sound from the one before it.  However, this song does what the whole of Desperate did for me:  it makes me want to sing along and get into the music.  If I have one criticism of Dear Science up to this point, it’s that the music feels mostly detached from the listener until this track hits.

“Love Dog” again slows down the pace after a fast song, but fear not, because it delivers.  This song actually feels somewhat like it was supposed to be on Cookie Mountain.  It just has a pretty similar sound to that album.  I haven’t mentioned it up to this point, but TVotR usually has some really good lyrics, with plenty of symbolism and hidden meanings.  I’m a sucker for that kind of stuff in music, and TVotR has plenty of this on previous albums.  I hadn’t gotten a feeling for it so far on Dear Science until “Love Dog”.  This song reaffirms my hopes that TVotR wouldn’t lose what I loved them for.

“Shout Me Out” again sounds familiar to me, without me being able to pinpoint how.  And like “Red Dress” this song draws me in, which is unusual for such a mellow song (SPOILER: this changes).  Tunde’s vocals are awesome here; if he went with this sound on more songs, I would not be disappointed.  Furthermore, the lyrics are quite good without being too symbolistically rich (fuck yeah, making up words).  While the sound changes a few times, “Shout Me Out” definitely is one of the best songs on the album.  And it has a guitar solo! Fuck yeah!

For some reason, “DLZ” feels to me like a callback to Desperate.  The vocals seem like a cross between “Ambulance” and “Staring at the Sun”, both from that album.  There is not one thing I would change about this track, and that’s saying something.  This song really is flawless.  It’s intense without being overpowering.  It sounds like classic TVotR, while still showing signs of an evolving sound.  The best song on the album has been found.

We come to the album’s close with “Lover’s Day”, another song that sounds like it could have been from Cookie Mountain (I keep thinking of Mario whenever I mention that album).  The main thing that leads me towards this is the harmonies.  They sound very, very similar to the way they were executed on Cookie. That isn’t a bad thing, however; I loved the harmonies on that album!  Near the end of the song, it breaks down into what sounds like a parade theme song, and we end with that.

So that’s the end of Dear Science… wait, that’s the end?  I have some final thoughts on this album that I didn’t make very clear throughout my review of each track.  First, I can’t get away from the fact that some of the album feels really detached.  By that, I mean that as a listener, you don’t get a feeling that you’re a part of the musical experience.  Some albums, Desperate and Cookie both did this for me, draw you in, and make you feel like you’re a part of the album.  This album didn’t do that for me, other than a few songs.  And that leads me to my other thought:  looking at each track individually, you’d think this would be a very good album.  While it is not bad, I can’t see it as being as great as the ravings about it claimed.  It just left me wanting more from TV on the Radio.  Honestly, it’s a little disappointing, considering how strong their previous albums had been.  So if you haven’t jumped on board with these guys yet, I’d suggest starting with one of the two preceding albums, as they’re better.

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