TV On The Radio - Dear Science

Matt Harrold 08/10/2002

Rating: 4/5

New York's finest are something of an enigma. Having showcased such potential with both 'Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes' and 'Return to Cookie Mountain' they still seemed to miss that je ne sais quoi with both albums. 'DYADB'felt more like a Frankenstein experiment into finding out how to gel together many of TVOR's varied influences, producing an album both with style but somehow aloof - you could admire it but it proved a much harder monster to love - whilst the sheer density of 'Return To Cookie Mountain' meant that it took multiple listens to sink in and move past the shoegazing drone elements and wrap yourself in an album full of amazing songs. Which in today's climate of instant fixes and crowd-pleasing sing alongs could surely be the death knell for any band on a major label? Thank god that Interscope, TVOR's home label in the states, seems to take a longer view point with its artists.

Otherwise we'd have forgone the excitement and build up to the much anticipated 'Dear Science', the question being was it worth the wait? Overwhelmingly yes: but with just a hint of no. It's certainly an album of the year, no one with a modicum of taste would deny that, but it's not a classic either in the sense of the word that the Beatles' White Album is a classic. That tag seems to be just out of reach of otherwise one of the most exciting art rock band going.

David Sitek, founding member alongside Tunde Adebimpe, and general super producer, has once again taken a left turn into new territory. This time though the fug and feed back from 'Cookie Mountain' have been replaced with an '80s sheen more akin to David Bowie going Disco, but being TVOR it's Disco channelling the spirit of Radiohead, blues and soul. Oh yeah it's time to get art rock funky on the dancefloor! 'Crying'could easily steal its way onto a Prince album, whilst opener 'Halfway Home' becomes the bridge between 'Dear Science' and 'Return to To Cookie Mountain' and whilst it takes a while to build up with its drone and hand claps, the chorus is about as sublime as pop can get with Tunde Adebimpe's vocals hitting the epic soul territory. More surprisingly is the echoing piano chord that ushers in the bands first attempt at a ballad, and in doing so it produces an achingly sad song tinged in gothic imagery, the kind of song that Coldplay's Christ Martin would love to come out with if he didn't keep on getting stuck in the revolving door of MOR radio friendly songs.

Lyrically Tunde Adebimpe is in familiar territory, managing to sum up the alienation, anger and neon-tinged broken romance of New York City. He Bush baits on 'Red Dress' with "Hey Jackal/fuck your war/'cause I'm fat and in love/and your bombs are dropping on me for sure", bringing to mind the venom and anger of the Manic Street Preacher's 'Holy Bible', which in parts 'Dear Science' seems the modern day counterpart to. Though occasionally there's moments like in dancing 'Choose' where his free form association of "I see you figured in your action pose/foam-injected Axl Rose" goes astray, but for someone who projects the massed outrage of all those who aren't heard, it's a minor blip in an otherwise heady world where lyrics slice like razor blades. Ironically it's also the album with the most direct lyrics with 'Lover's Day' hedonistically threatening "I'm going to take you/I'm going to shake you/I'm going to make you come" - shag track anyone?