Nine Types of Light, TV on the Radio’s fourth studio album, is the first time the band has ventured out of its creative Brooklyn haven and recorded 10 popular rock tracks in Los Angeles. Yet the California breeze was no agent for an effervescent product — at least, not this time around. The intrigue of 2006’s Return to Cookie Mountain has fallen by the wayside as TV smooths out the crunch of its sound.

TV on the Radio

Nine Types of Light

A different sound from album to album is typically impressive and respectable. But Nine Types of Light evokes a nostalgic desire in the listener to re-explore the funky intricacy of the quintet’s sophisticated past material, which struck a worldwide audience.

TV’s latest endeavor seems to be missing one thing: grunge. For the most part, the graffiti-timbre was replaced on this record by over-simplified chord progressions. But as always, there are exceptions to the rule.

One of these exceptions is the unfittingly tenacious “New Cannonball Blues,” which brings forward badass chords and lyrical ferocity — almost “DLZ” style. Another success is the penultimate “Forgotten,” which thunders with energy derived from a whip-cracking bass drum, whistles and indecipherable hushings.

One slow croon that holds allure is “Will Do,” which contains an elongated riff that arches away from boredom with banjo and layered vocal pitches of lead singer Tunde Adebimpe and vocalist Kyp Malone. Listeners get a bite of verve as Adebimpe howls between the stinging down-beat, “We won’t know the actual if we never take the chance / I’d love to collapse with you and ease you against this song.”

The members of TV on the Radio sport a hipster look — fresh afro-inspired hair formations, Delphian facial hair, square glasses and sleek patterned coat jackets dominate their style — but on Nine Types of Light, these men have produced music that matches less with their contemporary bohemian appearance and more with your average 25-year-old lover-boy band.

Though Tunde says there is deeper meaning underneath the album — particularly on the track “You,” which he haunts with an eerie melody of deceiving love — there is still an absent element that renders the record forgettable.

“Keep Your Heart” and “Killer Crane” lethargically spell out dull and manage to keep bones and extremities still. Becoming desperate for some upbeat magic, Malone’s vocals in “No Future Shock” cure a bit of rock depression. The rap beat “Caffeinated Consciousness” concludes the album with an ’80s feel — the title’s trump over its content can be measured by an extra-large cup of Greenwich roast.

For the hope of future intriguing TV on the Radio albums, it’s comforting to think that maybe the reason Nine Types of Light didn’t hold up the band’s previously ambitious sound is because the album was written and recorded in a speedy three months.

If the unintentional slip into the safe zone can be mentally put aside, it’s important to know that TV has embarked on an extensive tour, headlining the day after the album’s release in Radio City Music Hall. Also, keep your ears perked for “All Falls Down,” “Troubles” and stirring remixes and instrumentals, which will be available on the deluxe edition of the album. Maybe these songs will credit more smiles than their titles allude to.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.