Review Summary: Funky, soulful, poppy but not without considerable weight, Dear Science is one of 2008's best.
A friend of mine likes to tell me that I have a habit of, as he calls it, "killing flies with a sledgehammer". And I won't deny it. My opinions tend to pick up steam and gain momentum, and as a result I end up convincing myself of things that just aren't true. In one case, I almost had myself thinking that Return to Cookie Mountain
was a bad album. It's definitely not a bad album. I was disappointed by it, and I still am, but all things considered, it's a pretty good
album. It just didn't seem to click like Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes
did. It felt grey, and in hindsight nothing really stood out. It was like they were holding back. Beyond "Wolf Like Me", "I Was A Lover" and "Blues From Down Here", I still have trouble distinguishing individual tracks. Return to Cookie Mountain
lacked that certain je ne sais quoi, only je sais quoi: it just didn't have the same flair to it. No pop. Dear Science
has all of this and more.
"What do they sound like"" they'd ask. "Uhhhh…," I'd reply. TV on the Radio has always been a band I have trouble describing and Dear Science
doesn't really make it any easier. There's a lot to their sound, and yet they've never written anything particularly esoteric or challenging. Their sound is a cogent blend of indie rock, soul, electronic musics, post punk and even hip-hop, and Dear Science
adds an extra dose of funk to the mix. But when you try to explain their sound using a laundry list of genres, you ultimately end up sounding like a complete and utter tool. Probably because on paper, it sounds like an absolute mess, and yet we end up with tracks like "Family Tree", an awesome low-key tune that sounds kind of like U2's "Beautiful Day" had they recorded it as a "Staring at the Sun" b-side. "Crying" slithers its way out of Sign O' the Times era Prince and executes its effective blend of funk and 80s barbershop without a hint of self-consciousness or restraint. TV on the Radio collaborate with afro-beat enthusiasts Antibalas on the latin-tinged "Red Dress" -- its sliding horns and jammed-out percussion sounding right at home behind Kyp Malone's unveiled cry of "*** your war, 'cause I'm fat and in love and the bombs are fallin' on me for sure". "DLZ" sounds like it could've been produced by DJ Shadow, while "Shout Me Out" is both campfire and spiritual.
is not a shallow record. It's fun, sometimes danceable and always engrossing, but if anything the crystal clear production (a first for the band) does as much for the sometimes political sometimes emotional concepts as it does funky grooves and compositional weight. In short, Dear Science
is a multifaceted approach to music. Not only does it effectively blend a myriad of seemingly conflicting sounds, but it does so tastefully and masterfully. Their penchant for sonic experimentation (they love to play with distortion and when I saw them this past July Gerard Smith had wind-chimes hanging off of his bass) has been toned down in favour of highlighting Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone sometimes crooned, sometimes sung, sometimes howled and occasionally rapped vocals. One of the best albums of 2008, Dear Science
is an album you can ramble on about for nearly 600 words before you realize you forgot to mention "Golden Age", arguably the best song on the album. It gets better every time I listen to it and that's a trend that only seems to be continuing.