TV on the Radio
When new friends and Brooklyn neighbors Tunde Adebimpe and David Sitek first began working on four-track recordings together, the last thing they could have expected was that a few years later they'd be the core of one of New York's most heavily hyped bands, the type critics like to anoint as rock and roll saviors. Though both had been conducting some musical experiments in private, neither had much experience playing in a band. Adebimpe was developing a career as an animator (he worked briefly for MTV and also directed the
They also followed up the EP with a debut album, 2004's Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, which confirmed TV on the Radio's immense potential. Eschewing the raw production style that characterizes the recent generation of post-punk and garage rock bands, TVOTR opts for a polished, metalloid sheen that establishes a certain cool, cinematic distance even as the music burns with experimental punk dynamics, quirky worldbeat strains and a lot of anguished soul. That's only the first quality that sets the band apart; another is Adebimpe's exeptional and inimitable vocal style. Often complemented by Mallone's falsetto croon, Adebimpe delivers his lines with warm, authoritative, almost gospel-like gravitas, showing emotional range that goes from confrontational to tender to desperate and back again. His lyrics, too, show uncommon intelligence and a sense of calibrated balance not often found in rock poetry; whether meditating on war, race, love or urban tension, he's neither irritatingly obvious nor frustratingly oblique, coming up with robust images that illustrate a point, if you want to listen. Then there's TVOTR's sonic ambition and compositional sophistication: dark, dense, and stylishly dangerous, the music rockets forward on the strength of churning beat patterns, sludgy loops of pure bass fuzz, and hard drones, all married to guitars which rarely indulge in any pyrotechnics, often serving as one more sharp, barbed, static element in the band's intense sound sculptures. But in counterpoint to the ominous textures, there are ecstatic saxophones which betray a love of Afrobeat, and the weird, abstracted barbershop harmonies every reviewer comments on, cut the arty adult seriousness with a dash of giddy, naive joy. Desperate Youth is not without fault; more than one song presents interesting palettes initially while failing to develop further. But since embarking on this journey, TV on the Radio has already proved remarkably adept at finding its sea legs. You're unlikely to find much more intelligence, passion, and creative ingenuity in one place.