It should come as no surprise that TV on the Radio is perhaps the most interesting band to come out of New York City in recent memory. Instead of orienting themselves to throwback rock’n’roll or attempting to capture the frenetic, ultra-modern discotheque energy of their peers, they appear more comfortable developing a unique sonic palette, the template for which was set on their 2003 EP, the masterful Young Liars.
TV on the Radio create a rock style that’s evocative, sinister and boldly original. Their sound — captured on their latest release Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes — is the sound of a city blanketed in a sheet of snow that absorbs all noise and of the uneasy sense of peace that the elements can bring to the typical chaos of urban life.
Considered soul-experimentalism or doo-wop rock, they simply make a conglomeration of densely layered production and Benzedrine guitars on Desperate Youth. The cornerstone of the band’s unique sound is vocalist Tunde Adebimpe’s soul-laden croon. Best displayed on “Ambulance,” a plaintive a capella track, Adebimpe weaves race-conscious, oblique poetry laced in visceral imagery about urban life over the band’s pulsating drive.
There are plenty of advances from the EP, including the remarkable “The Wrong Way,” which blares with a subway saxophone and the lush harmonies of “Poppy.” Unfortunately, Desperate Youth lacks the ingenuity and impact that made their first outing such an incredible achievement. The fact of the matter remains that the band’s singular idea has been stretched out over a canvas larger than it can handle. Many of the tracks, especially the latter third, wear out their welcome and lack the stylized touch of Young Liars.
For a band that accomplished the nearly impossible — the creation of a unique and pioneering sound in a city and a scene whose most ingenious members are content attempting to replicate the music of eras past — it’s easy to understand the temptation to secure the sonic territory they tread as their own. To ask the same band to reinvent itself once again may be a bit much, but here’s to hoping that TV on the Radio can stay as relevant as their potential alludes to.
Rating: 3 out 5 stars