Dear Science

TV On The Radio

Interscope/4AD, 2008

REVIEW BY: Mike Cirelli


Maybe TV On The Radio should have switched the titles of their last two albums. The artfully experimental grime rock of 2006’s Return To Cookie Mountain, a daunting labyrinth of acid-washed vocals, guitar fuzz and zany alien textures, deserves a laboratory setting more than their latest release. 

Dear Science tones the experimentation down a little, favoring more accessible art-funk rhythms, hooky choruses and foggy piano melodies that Coldplay could play with a calculatedly subdued punk spirit boiling underneath. And while TV’s new style doesn’t exactly bring cookies or any other baked goods to mind, the twinkling keys and circus-nabbed horn harmonies addle the songs with something nbtc__dv_250 Cookie Mountain lacked: pop sensibility. 

The new style waxes refinement more than commercial surrender, however. “Golden Age” pits a quick, bumpy bass line against a sinewy horn symphony, resulting in an explosive James Brown-meets-Radiohead mash-up. The appealingly bittersweet “Crying,” featuring funked-up guitar melodies atop a twister of electronic bleeps and swirls, recalls Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” with a vocal part that’s just as high and peculiar. And in the Coldplay-influenced “Family Tree,” eerily gorgeous strings waft delicately over Tunde Adebimpe’s ghostlike laments before cascading into a Velvet Underground-worthy piano-drum trot.

Adebimpe makes some insightful observations about the current state of political America. In “Golden Age,” he sings about “natural disasters blowing up like a ghetto blaster” as if he’s prophesying, and “Red Dress” starts off with a brash kiss-off to the war in Iraq amid a turbulent cross-pollination of guitars, feedback, and hysteria. The political insight in Dear Science adds an extra layer of intellectual potency to the already astute production.

With Dear Science, TV tweaks the murky kookiness of Return To Cookie Mountain, resulting in something just as aesthetic but more pleasurable. The album draws on late-‘70s funk but at the same time pushes the boundaries of music into a new dimension -- not an easy feat, and something definitely worthy of whatever title its makers prefer.

Rating: A-

User Rating: A-


© 2009 Mike Cirelli and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Interscope/4AD, and is used for informational purposes only.