Monday, February 19, 2007

TVotR -Return to Cookie Mountain

Prior to the release of their new record Return to Cookie Mountain, TV on the Radio, one of the most original bands of recent memory, was at a crossroads. They immediately garnered critical acclaim with their first releases, demonstrating influences as diverse as the Beach Boys and Gang of Four, along with hip-hop. Their last offering, Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, while fresh and innovative, was too dense for its own good. Its nine tracks did not allow for a healthy progression in the record as a whole. Instead the songs each stood out as individuals rather than comprising a full developed record. On their major label debut however, their comfort level is obvious as they flow though 11 songs with such ease it’s a wonder why they aren’t the biggest band in the world.
The record opens with “I Was a Lover,” which features a deeply orchestrated sound often interrupted, in a very stunning way, by walls of noise. The song begins with a laid back hip-hop beat before the gorgeous textures of instruments and harmony flow though it. Then said noise breaks right in. It is unapologetic and brash, yet invigorating as it threatens to literally block out the rest of the music, which at that point has moved from centerpiece to background.
The vocals have always been the most refreshing part of TvotR. The band thrives on vocal synchronizations that take the Beach Boys’ harmonies and dresses them up in haunting imagery and tones. Though this dark, moody and invigorating style of harmony is present throughout the entire record, it flourishes like never before on “Wolf Like Me.” This is by far their best song to date. It opens with a single driving beat and gloomy synthesizers, which at first could be misheard as an opening for a more artsy Nine Inch Nails song, a band who they toured with this summer along with Bauhaus. By the time the vocals cut in the song is pushed farther and farther into a beautiful melody. Lyrically the song illustrates tension as they sing, “Got a curse I cannot lift, Shines when the sunset shifts, When the moon is round and full, Gotta bust that box gotta gut that fish.” Perhaps representing their apprehension on a major label, the brilliance of the song proves that they won.
Featuring an impressive guest vocalist on “Province,” it becomes clear that it only makes sense that David Bowie is on the record. As a figure that represents the fundamental basics of art and originality, he works well with TvotR, who have shown that they are worthy of carrying the same torch. With “A Method,” a simple doo-wop influenced song; the listener can practically see the band standing on the corner of Broad and Olney in 1950 doing the song, snapping their fingers and drawing spectators.
Such lavish atmosphere resounds though out Return to Cookie Mountain. Like past efforts, this one features density, but the patience in the record along with their lengths, makes it work. They have, undoubtedly, succeeded.

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