Review Summary: Put that in your laptop and smoke it.
First impressions are important, but it’s not as if you talk your way into someone’s memory when you meet them. For this analogy, TV on The Radio’s debut is simply not the album one would hand out if they were to start touring, subtley getting their name across in cafés, or in any other introductory situation. For one thing, most would rather avoid lawsuits with humourless musicians. More importantly, however, I’m sure most would rather be remembered as the creator of the promising “Say You Do” – as opposed to the creator of the promising “Say You Do”… and seventeen more. In case you’re wondering, this is a definite case of quality over quantity. TV on the Radio’s handout OK Calculator
just is not that.
isn’t even as unprofessional as it comes across as being, even amongst its four-track atmosphere. Of course, it’s not even remotely polished up, but can you really expect to have it any other way? Whistling through an extended (and better) mock-up of Radiohead’s “Fitter Happier”, TV On the Radio essentially debuted on quantity alone. OK Calculator
scales pretty much every style they could later go onto incorporate. Firstly, and most noticeably, the debut begins the band’s fascinating a’capella offshoot; the under-developed ideas of “Freeway” or “Yr God” may be under-developed in the shape of things, but both amplify the band’s blossomed spirit and immediate catchiness. Then, the second significant path is found in the mini epics of “Say You Do” or “Hurt You”, an abrasive blend of soul and beating, lyrically powered pop.
In the end, all it really comes down to is restraint. TV On the Radio has always been a band to stray away from a particular genre, but this album stretches the experimental game to its limits. Where a vocal-dominated cover of Pixies’ “Mr. Greives” set the band amidst from their Indie categorisation, OK Calculator
has other (but less enjoyable) proof, too! “On a Train” tries to get the listener lost and mesmerised, but for all its ambient elusiveness, it cannot stop becoming sixteen minutes of high-pitched nausea. “Netti Fritti” is the most under produced number on the album, but I’m sure its ridiculously rapid movements will assure that nobody cares. Pretty much every track has a moment that spoils itself, and this perhaps shouldn’t frustrate as it does, but it becomes so sad to see these budding ideas disrupted and ultimately forgotten to the band’s plans; never again will there be a messed up ballad quite like “Bicycles are Red Hot” or a “Pulse Of Pete”, but made far less pointless.
For this reason, I find it hard to recommend the piece given its musical predicaments. At times it isn’t shocking that this would be the same band that would create Dear Science
, and at other times it sounds so devoid of any real musical theme that it becomes hard to think of as the bands ‘roots’. Even if that’s not a bad thing, it’s disheartening to think they’ll never pull out these ideas again; granted, at the same time, it’s a blessing. OK Calculator
is the sort of stumble forward you wouldn’t expect, but hey: they referenced Radiohead, who debuted with Pablo Honey
. Thankfully, TV On the Radio has devolved into something quite startling, and at least they started with a smile for every note.