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Polaroids Of Androids

Record Reviews

6.7

TV On The Radio
Nine Types Of Light

TV On The Radio have continued to evolve up to this point. Over their past decade of creating music, it has never felt like producer/guitarist Dave Sitek has just sat back behind the desk and let it process in a way that he's used to. Likewise, Tunde Adebimpe has never lyrically travelled to that comfortable island of complacency. He's continually sounded hungry, constantly searching for a creative oasis, which has in-turn has deservedly pushed TVOTR into rarified 'indie' air, whereby they creatively expand at a similar rate as to their increasing level of commercial success.

It might sound like a brilliant place to be as a band, but in many respects it must be difficult to have that expectation for constant bar-pushing and evolution placed on your head. Until now they've managed to pull it off. From debut EP Young Liars, up until the 2008's power-pop experiment, Dear Science, it's clear the direction the band have focused on. While, in our books at least, Return To Cookie Mountain remains their creative pinnacle, there's little doubt the band continually made a conscious effort to push forward, increasing their ability to structure their sound in a clearer, more pop-focused way, thus in turn reaching a wider audience.

However, with Nine Types Of Light the wheels seem to have finally stopped. There's a comfort level to this record that just sounds like TVOTR have reached that place that just about every band eventually gets to, where they no longer have the focus or energy required to be game-changing creative leaders.

Maybe that's a tad unfair. This really isn't a bad album at all, it's just the least of a pretty exceptional bunch. It lacks the unique and sometimes polarizing elements of a TVOTR record. Sitek's glitchy, pushy and, at times, groundbreaking production on earlier tracks like Ambulance and I Was A Lover is largely missing here. Take for example the first single, Will Do. It's definitely (The New) TVOTR — it's pretty catchy, it's tastefully produced etc — but at the same time it lacks the guts of previously released tracks, such as Province or Wolf Like Me, and hence it could be thrown on the huge pile of good but not great songs out of Brooklyn over the last few years.

That's really the thing with this record, it's hard to put your finger on why, but it just doesn't stick with you like the majority of the band's past offerings. Nine Types Of Light has that continuity both musically and sonically and it's pretty easy to sit through it a bunch of times, but on the other hand it's also pretty easy to walk away and not really remember too much about it. And that can't be a good thing. Even tracks like Caffeinated Consciousness, which is probably the most energetic tune on the record, sounds like it's really reaching out to the listener but it never quite pulls you onboard and makes you feel the impact or even see the point in the half-time, low register chorus that arrives out of nowhere and takes you nowhere special.

The most obvious indicator that the fire's definitely diminished a bit comes through in Adebimpe's lyrics. It doesn't feel like he's as involved with these tunes as he has been in the past. For example, when obvious quips like "you're standing there mumbling like a cat's got your tongue", step in to replace lines like, "suddenly, all your history's ablaze. Try to breath, as the world disintegrates", it comes off sounding somewhere between forced and drained of inspiration. Maybe it's just that the big guy's found love, as thematically that's what seems to link these tunes together. Even so, there's a kind of mushy balladry running through a lot of this record and it doesn't play to the band's strengths. There have always been lush elements to TVOTR's music, but the band are at their best when the lushness goes through that grimy New York filter instead of Sitek's cushy LA studio.

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TV On The Radio

 

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