We might have a fresh, shiny new year on our hands, but there was a distinct lack of fresh, shiny new talent among the pile of plastic I had to review for my monthly singles column in The Skinny magazine. That’s not to say it was one big ear assault though…
Travis have moved on from the traditional method of singing pop songs for other people. Now they sing a Song To Self (**, 5 Jan). Like much of their output since The Man Who, it’s inoffensive and melodious but largely forgettable, so just as well no-one’s listening.
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My other contribution to The Skinny‘s top ten albums of 2008. This made #3 in the collective poll.
The title of TV On The Radio’s third album offers a small insight into the kind of intellectual japes behind their creative process. Dear Science, (the comma is intended, punctuation fans) was the opening gambit of a letter written by guitarist Dave Sitek that he posted on the wall of his Brooklyn studio during recording. It demanded of science itself that it “fix all the things you’re talking about” or shut up. Although playful, it demonstrates the band’s artistic integrity: they may ply their trade on the creative side of the fence, but they’re still looking over to the other side expectantly.
But what of all this talk that TVotR have mellowed since Return to Cookie Mountain? Remnants of that album’s worldly frustration can still be heard on the incendiary Dancing Choose or in the existential numbness of Red Dress:
“Hey jackboot, fuck your war / ‘Cause I’m fat and in love And no bombs are fallin’ on me for sure / But I’m scared to death that I’m livin’ a life not worth dyin’ for.”
For the most part Dear Science, loosens the coils of angst and sonic density the band once wound so tight; like Talking Heads before them, TVotR realise that funk stylings don’t necessarily entail dumb fun music. Crying finds Tunde Adebimpe trying on his best Prince falsetto, while Golden Age employs a catchy off-beat guitar hook. This new-found peppiness doesn’t always work – Stork And Owl and Shout Me Out are the only fillers – but this enormously talented quintet have still delivered on the daunting expectation they set themselves in 2006. Dear Indie Rock, you’ve got some catching up to do.
I went to a cracking gig on Sunday night. TV on the Radio have been producing some of the most forward-thinking, ballsy indie rock of the past five years. True, their new album is decidedly ‘poppy’ (by their standards) but this was still a superb performance – and not even the fool near me shouting ‘Fray Bentos!’ at select moments could detract from it. Here’s my review for The Skinny:
It’s a testament to the full-blooded intensity of their music that a line of fans snakes along the street outside the ABC to watch TV on the Radio, an under-publicized, experimental rock band from the other side of the Atlantic. Mention their name and you’ll probably receive a blank look from Joe Public, but the paid-up aficionados here tonight react to every rasping word from Tunde Adebimpe’s mouth, every reverberated thrash from Dave Sitek’s guitar and every frenetic rhythm. It doesn’t matter that they open with a pair of their early, lesser known tracks: this is vital, important, electrifying; and when the truly feral Wolf Like Me rears its head four songs in it’s a moment to be savoured. New songs from Dear Science dominate the set, and while Red Dress and Dancing Choose find the pogo-ing Adebimpe at his strained best, the epic Halfway Home is a glaring omission. Still, this is a minor complaint from a major gig.
Filed under gigs, music, reviews