CD Review of Dear Science by TV on the Radio
Recommended if you like
The Fall, Stereolab, Dirty Three
TV on the Radio:
Dear Science

Reviewed by Jim Washington


ipster art rockers TV on the Radio focus less on art rock and a lot more on the hips this time around.

The Brooklyn band has built a pristine critical reputation since 2004’s Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes and early EPs. But has there ever been a group so critically praised while at the same time standing accused of being not that much fun to listen to?

Most music fans agree that TVOR’s 2006 breakthrough Return to Cookie Mountain was an amazing achievement, while not something you’d pull out at party time (not that there’s anything wrong with that). With Dear Science, the band embraces a bit more hip-hop and dance rock. Perhaps the album title reflects that marriage of experimental indie rock and a warmer sound.

It says something that a spin through Science brings to mind not just David Bowie and Peter Gabriel but Prince. The album is almost equally divided between the newer, funked-up sound and the dense, atmospheric rock that made the band’s name.

While the often-quoted opening lines of Cookie Mountain -- “I was a lover / Before this war” -- represented the band’s bleak take on Bush’s America, the tone on Science is a little bit lighter.

On “Golden Age,” singer Tunde Adebimpe proclaims “Feel it quake with joy…the ages of miracles, the age of sound/a golden age is comin’ round.” Other tunes in that vein -- “Dancing Choose,” “Crying,” and “Shout Me Out,” for instance -- seem to keep the good times rolling. But the band’s collective head is not in the clouds, or their collective butts on the dance floor. “Family Tree” and “Red Dress” in particular dwell on the uglier side of human nature. 

TV on the Radio

The opening words of “Red Dress” are no less direct than “I Was a Lover”: “Hey jackboot, fuck your war, ‘cause I’m fat and in love / And no bombs are falling on me.”

Later the singer casts himself as a “lonely little love dog / Who no one knows the name of” in the mournful and yet somehow catchy “Love Dog,” and on the next-to-last song, “DLZ,” sings “this is beginning to feel like the long-winded blues of the never.” 

The album ends on a, if not happy, at least lusty note, with “Lover’s Day.” Over a driving beat and soaring horns, Adebimpe promises “I’m gonna take you, I’m gonna shake you, I’m gonna make you cum,” not to mention smashing the walls and breaking the bed.

It’s a very simple invitation to forget our troubles and just get it on, which seems like as good an idea as any for confronting what’s going on the world today.

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