TV on the Radio - Nine Types of Light

by Pete Sykes Rating:9 Release Date:2011-04-11

TV on the Radio - the genre-hopping band of super-producer Dave Sitek (who's knob-twiddled for Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars and Foals, amongst others) and singer and director Tunde Adebimpe - are now almost unrecognisable from the lo-fi, half-ironic experimentalism of their debut, 2002's OK Calculator. Their last album, Dear Science, released in 2008, was a lush, sprawling, ambitious and wonderful record, equal parts brain and heart, and was duly lavished with praise by every music critic in the known world. Since then, the band have taken a year out, and bassist Gerard Smith has been diagnosed with cancer, but this hasn't stopped them from picking up where Science left off on the brilliant Nine Types of Light. It's a warmer, more relaxed, more rounded affair than its predecessor, and just as stuffed full of hooks, tunes and a lot of soul.

The two opening songs show the band at their best. 'Second Song' begins gently and then bursts into life in the chorus, Adebimpe breaking out his soaring falsetto as bass and drums thump beneath it. It's quite terrifically catchy. 'Keep Your Heart', meanwhile, is a gorgeous, romantic affair, yet suffused with self-doubt, Adebimpe wondering "How'm I going to keep your heart/ If the world all falls apart?" Again, the chorus is something special, all lush harmonies and sweetly plucked acoustic guitars. It would take feet of ice not to dance to the first song and a heart of stone not to be moved by the second; not bad for a band who started out as a semi-intellectual, experimental side project.

There are plenty more gems to be found on NTOL. 'Killer Crane' is an odd but fascinatingly languid piece of Fleet Foxes-style Americana; it's followed by single 'Will Do', a sharp, melancholy, polished pop ballad. In an even greater departue, 'New Cannonball Blues' is a thrillingly deranged, almost apocolyptic electro-funk workout, held together, as always, by Adebimpe's spectacular voice, vaulting from vicious grunting to blissful falsetto in a second. No two songs on this record sound the same, which could lead to accusations of pastiche. But the genius of this album is that, even more than on Dear Science, TV on the Radio have not only created some unusual, interesting music but also an album full of soul and, crucially, amazing tunes and cracking songwriting.

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