Review Summary: Turns out they're lovers after the war too.
How different TV On The Radio have become. It’s hard to believe, listening to Nine Types Of Light, that we used to consider this band a “black Radiohead”. I swear, though, the assessment used to make sense. After an enigmatic debut, Tunde and the boys released, 'Return To Cookie Mountain', a highly electronic experimental breakthrough, which delved into high amounts of discordance with a devilish cock tease of melody. But of course, just like Radiohead, it’s hard to pigeonhole TV On The Radio into an individual sector. Because, guess what, five years and two albums later, TV On The Radio are back, and it’s no longer a cock-tease, it’s a full out sex marathon. The band has brought us through social-economical ranting, apocalyptic preaching, and masochistic musings, but in Nine Types of Light, they’re only looking to get you laid.
As it turns out, the bands last LP “Dear Science“ was more than a strong hint at the direction the band was heading, with its increased sense of harmony and its delectable off-kilter groove. But by comparison, that was just the first course, and Nine Types Of Light is the funky eruptive musical fondue. Songwriting has suddenly transformed into an informal affair. The maniacal, fuzzed out, dense, experimental statements are gone, and in their place are pop songs. And not just pop songs, completely unreserved and unashamed pop songs. Killer Crane is a sentimental indie lullaby that the band would have considered blasphemous just three years ago, its sugarcoated refrain paired with an almost erotic accompaniment of banjo. Repetition is a proud shot out to the Dream Warriors, which bursts onto the scene with such swagger; it can’t help but become some devilish anthem. The final song on the album, which previously would unquestionably be a 6-minute whirlwind of clashing guitars, is suddenly a joyous 3-minute tribute to the pixies, ending the album on an incredibly sudden and, dare I say, carbonated note.
It’s almost shocking the way in which TV On The Radio has transformed, but in hindsight at least there was a strong inkling of it in Dear Science. It’s in the album's themes where the biggest deviations are found. After all, TV On The Radio have made you sway before, and we all know “Dear Science’s” ‘Dancing Choose’ caused you to dance a jig, but when’s the last time this band caused you to stop everything you’re doing and incite an, “aww”. Tunde and Kyp pull out all the romantic stops, and we’re not talking cannibalistic romance like previous records, we’re talking pure, innocent, perhaps even hormonal love. Lyrics in 'Keep Your Heart' (I’m going to keep your heart, if the world falls apart, I’m going to keep your heart.) and 'You' ("I just thought you would like to know, you’re the only one I’ve ever loved”) wouldn’t sound out of place in a Taylor Swift album. Indeed TVOTR have never felt so fluffy before. You almost expect them to dive into a cover of Plain White T’s ‘Delilah’. Alas, It never comes, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it did. They might have been inciting protest in "Dear Science", but now they’re satisfied with their audiences buying a bouquet of roses, and perhaps a pink teddy, just to show her you care.
The aggressiveness from previous albums is still there; it’s just covered completely with love fuzz. 'No Future Shock' is perhaps the vocal performance of 2011 thus far, with Tunde whispering, semi-rapping, and yelping with conviction. And 'New Cannonball Run' finds the band at it’s most nostalgic and electrifying. For the most part, though, this album finds TV On The Radio in new territory. Old fans might be horrified initially at what they find here, but what they’ll soon discover is a band so comfortable in its new element that it’s contagious.
Despite watering down their trademark experimentation, the band has arguably never sounded better. TV On The Radio’s new format gives them a freedom they have never enjoyed before. Instead of being creatively debilitating, as one would fear, the transformation is a creative epiphany, the music now featuring a lighthearted dynamic that has never been found in the band’s past. In fact, despite being in a new environment, the band has never felt so comfortable nor have they ever felt as unified. Hell, if you didn’t know the bands history, you would think that they’ve been doing this for years. Simply put, the songs on Nine Types of Light bubble with such an optimistic energy and a passionate excitability that it’s hard not to finish the album without joyfully grinning from ear to ear.
Where the album really succeeds though, is the new sense of intimacy with the listener the band has gained. Where once the band seemed like a distant and dark affair, as if on a pulpit watching us from afar, now they’re practically dancing with you. In fact they’ve just installed a disco ball in your basement, along with a fog machine, a bar, and strobe lights (9 different types actually). If you look in the corner, you’ll find a love couch, because they’re looking to get it on, or at least talk about whom they got it on with, depending what sex you are.