Guns n' Poses
Back in 2008, reviewing TV on the Radio's ridiculously-acclaimed (and, indeed, overpraised) Dear Science, I proffered a provocative theory: this wasn't the world's greatest band, delivering apocalyptic hymnals to a decaying planet, but just the 21st century INXS; all slickly-produced, synth-draped, soul-reverent radio-rock.
Three years on, and I'm no longer on the radical fringe. With the arrival of the fourth TVOTR opus, Nine Types of Light, the world is in wholehearted agreement.
Due, largely, to funky single "Caffeinated Consciousness" —and its unerring melodic resemblance to INXS's "Guns in the Sky— the connection has finally been made, on a mass level, and from now on it may never be severed.
In that, Nine Types of Light feels like the end of the first TV on the Radio chapter. No longer are they heralds of political and environmental calamity, now they're just a funky, unit-shifting rockband with sharp production and bold music videos.
Ten Shrines to Reproduction
Where Dave Sitek's over-egged productions once made a symphony out of ridiculous details —multi-tracking a thousand scribbled details into a single feverish work— on Nine Types of Light he plays this straighter: the guitar no longer scraping and gnarly, but smooth and fluid; the horns no longer hits of blown discordance, but glints of brassy decadence; the synths no longer wheezing contraptions of faltering technology, but a bank of singular, glowing sheen.
It's a record that tends to work two moods —sultry and funky— without a single (musical) note of foreboding; the on-the-verge, gripped-with-terror feeling of Return to Cookie Mountain already a long-ago memory.
Here, whether they're seducing and strutting, every song seems to be united by the same reproductive drive. These are songs saturated in desire.
Dear Science's best song, "Lover's Day," was a stand-out song about getting it on; standing apart when Kyp Malone squawked things like "ball so hard we'll smash the walls." Last time, it may've been just one time, on Nine Types of Light it's the whole LP. Like Big Black a quarter-century prior, TVOTR have written an album of songs about f**king.
Love in the Time of Chaos
All of two tunes into Nine Types of Light, and "Keep Your Heart" writes the album’s recurring theme out in so many sung-in-a-faltering-falsetto words: "If the world all falls apart/I'm gonna keep your heart." All this copulation is delivered with as much desperation and sentimentalism; the lyric-sheet suggesting that this album-long embrace of love, both physical and emotional, is the natural human reaction to the inevitability of death.
Being a TVOTR LP, that death isn't just personal, but planetary. The lyrics, as always, concern themselves with grandeur; from obligatory apocalyptic imagery to the titular allusion to celestial conversion.
In such, the band manage to wear their new-INXS status well. As in: even if they sound like overproduced corporate-rockers with a soul-funk jones, at least they're staying true to their lyrical selves. Nine Types of Light may sound glaringly garish, but those who peer beneath its neon sound will find unexpected depth in its lyrical shadows.
Record Label: Interscope
Release Date: April 12, 2011