Review Summary: Read Silence some truly entertaining moments but for the most part, the remixes are nothing we haven't seen done before -- or done better.
There's a tendency in art rock bands to want to release remixes of their songs. Radiohead
are perhaps the poster children for this, but TV on the Radio are big fans of having other artists remix their work. Occasionally, these remixes manage to be entertaining (the Das Racist remix of Nine Types of Light
track "Caffeinated Consciousness" is pure delight), but usually they're an exercise in futility, obviously amusing the artists but lacking the substance to warrant a release. It certainly doesn't help that Read Silence
is remixing three tracks from TV on the Radio's 2008 album Dear Silence
, one of the best albums of the past five years. Thankfully, though, the EP doesn't go for the obvious choices. Moody, atmospheric songs like "Halfway Home" and "DLZ" could have easily been chosen and remixed into typical, heavy-bass dance tracks. Instead, the choices here are relatively interesting: "Shout Me Out," "Stork and Owl," and "Red Dress" are the three remixes here, and while they fail to improve upon their original incarnations, they at least manage to be interesting.
First up is "Shout Me Out (Willie Isz Remix by Jneiro Jarel)." Here, singer Tunde Adebimpe's voice is placed atop a metronome-esque drumbeat, while a minimal bass melody plays in the back. Soon, though, a skittering drumbeat emerges, along with a chromatic scale played by what sounds like the mix between a melodica and a kazoo. Hints of the track's original guitars can be heard, but this remix really just places the vocals in a different song. It's actually listenable, for all its minimalism, before the track starts chopping Adebimpe's voice in the annoying way that remixes are stereotypically known for. The song's joyful hook is reduced to a stuttering "Sh-sh-sh-shou-shou-shou-shou-me-me-me-me-me-ou-ou-ou-ou-out." This goes on for a full minute and fifteen seconds, with the vocals being chopped up into different patterns in a way that feels neither deliberate nor enjoyable. The first half of this remix is rather enjoyable, but the second half is simply abrasive.
"Stork and Owl," Dear Science
's minimalist fourth track, is interestingly turned into a "Gang Gang Dance Remix," and at 7:31, it's a hefty track. Thankfully, while the words "Gang Gang Dance Remix" invoke fear in my very soul, the remix is the best of the album. A skittering drum machine, a few piano chords, and some background synth notes simply give "Stork and Owl" an expansive space in which to breathe. The reverb on this track seems to be turned up a little, and as more and more elements of the song are brought in, the song's landscape becomes much more full. "Stork and Owl," perhaps the weakest of Dear Science
's brilliant songs, isn't necessarily improved here, but it stays true to the song's original vibe while being placed into a slightly more lush context.
Finally, for "Red Dress," we finally get the heavy-bass remix that seemed destined to happen. The Glitch Mob turn the song into a synth heavy outing that wouldn't feel out of place at a rave, chopping up Adebimpe's vocals and placing them over a bouncing bassline that wobbles like dubstep without ever becoming quite as obnoxious. What we get here isn't so much a TV on the Radio song with dance music added, but dance music with TV on the Radio added. While I'd certainly prefer to hear it at a party over any of the counterparts of its genre, it feels more like an obligatory track here than anything terribly special.
Still visible through these remixes, though, are what made the original tracks so brilliant in the first place. What's not always visible, though, is a reason why these remixes are actually needed. Nothing is really accomplished by chopping up the vocals and putting them on top of new drumbeats. Read Silence
has a moments of truly entertaining music, but for the most part, it's nothing that we haven't seen done before -- or done better.