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TV on the Radio Evoke Gorgeous Intimacy on Latest

TV on the Radio -- 'Nine Types of Light' -- Interscope -- 4 STARS

By Charles G. Gertler, Contributing Writer

The music video for “Will Do,” TV on the Radio’s latest single, portrays members of the band approaching middle age and struggling with their waning youth and loss of intimacy in a futuristic world. For a band like TV on the Radio, whose founding members Tunde Adebimpe and David Andrew Sitek are respectively 36 and 38 years old, it’s tempting to imagine these themes are close to home. Despite its somewhat kitschy and wholly trippy aesthetic, the video manages to be both powerful and painful, evocative and entertaining, and it perfectly encapsulates the ethos of the album.

“Nine Types of Light” conveys an overwhelming sense of maturity in its every aspect. While TV on the Radio favors a more diverse and experimental approach over the adoption of a unified sound, their experiments never sound forced, and the songs effortlessly evoke the themes they describe. Earlier albums like “Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes” saw the band sacrificing thematic consistency for their occasionally off-putting forays into the unconventional—for instance, the ominous a cappella introduction of “Ambulance.” What separates “Nine Types of Light” from earlier albums, then, is its overarching coherence, despite all its boundary-pushing.

The first line of the first track, “Second Song,” establishes a candid self-reflectivity: “Confidence and ignorance approve me / Define my day-to-day / I’ve tried so hard to shut it down / Lock it up, gently walk away.” The abrupt confession of this vocal introduction combined with Adebimpe’s confident, jaunty delivery instantly sets a tone of intimate candor that continues through the rest of “Nine Types of Light.”

Permeating the entire album is an underlying desire for intimacy and companionship. Songs like “Will Do” and “You” deal explicitly with these fundamental themes. On “Will Do,” Adebimpe addresses a past love: “It might be impractical to seek out a new romance / We won’t know the actual if we never take the chance / I’d like to collapse with you and ease you against this song.” Adebimpe characterizes his music as a tool of intimacy, and the progression of the album as a whole most effectively displays this belief. “Nine Types of Light” works as a catalogue of intensely personal views on a wide variety of subjects: “Repetition” reveals its petty and self-aware frustration with the human condition while the reverent “Killer Crane” portrays a connection between spirituality and the natural world. Through its broad-reaching themes and confessional nature, the album slowly unveils its multifaceted personality.

However, the dense production seems at first to deny the intimacy that the lyrics invite. While the songs provide glimpses of the infectious licks and lines that make TV on the Radio so appealing, their trademark grit is hard to detect beneath the album’s futuristic sheen. Imperfections in production, like personality quirks, often reveal the motivation behind the album’s creation, and the extra depth that the candor of the lyrics promise is, at first, hard to find in the music. The production seems to deny the very access that the lyrics invite, but this contradiction is paradoxically the album’s most engaging quality. By the time the fifth track, “Killer Crane” comes around, its hymnal and elegiac sound somehow recasts earlier tracks that at first seemed too purposefully erudite as endearingly guarded. “Crane” marks the point at which the album becomes most open, and the rest of the album boldly continues in this self-revelatory vein.

On “Nine Types of Light” TV on the Radio manage to strike an almost perfect balance between art rock experimentation and intense, emotional accessibility. While it has fewer angsty grooves than normally appear on their albums, the band succeeds in presenting a completely human experience that sounds new and different, but winds up feeling intimately knowable and engagingly personal.

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