TV On The Radio – Nine Types Of Light (Interscope)
by Scott Creney
I can’t help feeling that somewhere along the line I let TV On The Radio down. When that ‘Young Liars’ EP showed up in 2003, I said to myself, “This is a band that is going to change everything. A band to fight for. A band to gather up all the Shins, and the Postal Services, and the Iron & Wines, and sweep them from the earth as surely as Nirvana swept the earth clean at the beginning of the 90s (to say nothing of the boy bands, and the jock rockers polluting commercial radio)”.
Oh, TV On The Radio, how I thrilled to your shouts, how I wept to your cries. The lumps welled in my throat as I listened to your sound, a truly new sound for the new millennium, the only artists who seemed to truly FEEL the events of 9/11 and their bizarre sordid aftermath, to truly feel it in their heart. And with each new album, I could feel you getting closer to that one album, the one that would be great from beginning to end, and unite a fragmented pop universe. For though I have scorn & daggers in my heart for Rolling Stone, and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame Inc., and such, I am also a romantic, a born optimist. I imagined teenagers all over the world writing lines like, “Know the trees because the dirt is temporary”, or “If you save yourself, I’ll save you all the time”.
It was so close I could taste it.
But I am also a coward. I told you nothing TVOTR. You spent a decade lost & wandering through a music universe that was changing, not just in terms of sound & fashion, but changing the way in which it was bought, sold, distributed, and listened to. How were you supposed to know what to do? When it took every ounce of your energy just to get out of bed every morning? To read the newspaper without retching?
I was lost & wandering as well. I could have reached out to you. I could have told you. I could have written the following letter and sent it to you, or reached you through one of the infinite web-based means of communication:
Dear TV On The Radio,
In your best moments, you fuse together anger, sadness, and excitement in a way that is quintessentially rock & roll, from Elvis, to Sex Pistols, to Public Enemy, to Nirvana. And you do it in a way that sounds really fresh, new, and modern. I know that you distrust rocknroll. I know that is part of why you are able to stand outside of it and make such breathtaking & vital music. I say to you, embrace it. Make that one album, the one that unites the students & the gas station worker, the immigrant & the aristocrat. Make your Rumours, your Born In The USA, your Nevermind. And if you’re too stubborn & prideful to do that, then you could at least make the most abrasive, irritating, ambitiously weird music you’re capable of. But for god’s sake please stop walking a line down the middle, please stop vacillating, and kinda-sorta-halfway trying to be successful. You signed to Interscope for a reason. Now go and do it.
I was lucky enough to see them play to a club of 500 people after their second album Return To Cookie Mountain came out in 2006. The live show was as close as they ever got. This TV performance is what it felt like.
Looking back, there just wasn’t enough sweat in the records, not enough catharsis. There were moments, songs here and there, ‘The Wrong Way’, ‘New Health Rock’, ‘Province’, ‘Wolf Like Me’, where it seemed that they were getting closer, that beautiful wasn’t going to be good enough, that they were going to rip out your heart next time and stop you dead in your tracks, the way they did the first time you heard them. But they never quite got there. I have no way of knowing why.
They took a year off before getting together to work on their new album. It’s called Nine Types Of Light, but I wouldn’t get too excited if I were you. 2011 finds TV On The Radio with nothing new to say, no new sounds to make, and no reason on earth to go on existing. They are a band whose time has come. And gone.
I’d post the video from their new album, but you’d have to sit through a car commercial before you could watch it. Here’s an audio clip.