TV on the Radio, Nine Types of Light
by Stephanie Benson | April 5, 2011
There's always been a restlessness to TV on the Radio's music, an immediacy that captures a timely sentiment and makes it timeless. In their decade of existence, the Brooklyn experimenters have often trudged through dim sociopolitical musings, while their whirlwind of avant electro-rock and soul-funk almost always has them sounding like they're in the midst of some natural disaster. Lead vocalist Tunde Adebimpe's deep howl is like the foghorn to fellow singer Kyp Malone's high siren, their vocals enduring the hypnotic squall of battered beats, swirling guitars, horns, woodwinds and synths mostly provided by fellow members Dave Sitek, Jaleel Bunton and Gerard Smith.
On their fourth album, Nine Types of Light, TVOTR hint at a slightly brighter new decade; even the title suggests an escape from the darkness. One significant word in particular keeps biting at Adebimpe's tongue: love. He questions and battles and ultimately embraces that four-letter monstrosity in nearly every track: "I'll defend my love forever," he sings in "Second Song" as Malone's manic falsetto makes its presence felt, and heavy beats and horns dance in delight to such a heroic proposition. "You're the only one I ever loved," he stoically claims on "You," keeping his balance over loopy rhythms and zigzagging synth lines. Yet the sweetest proclamation of devotion comes in first single "Will Do": "But I'll be there to take care of you if ever you should decide/ That you don't want to waste your life in the middle of a lovesick lullaby," Adebimpe cries, like a Romeo waiting for his Juliet to wake up, already.
Of course, this wouldn't be a TV on the Radio record without a few apocalyptic fantasies. "Killer Crane" and "Forgotten" are somewhat ominous ballads whose underlying drones are stretched taut like a rubber band that never slackens. Then there's the more agitated "Repetition," a feverish stomper about history's lessons unlearned. But nothing is quite as cynically upbeat as "No Future Shock," an actual dance tune that implores you to "shake it like it's the end of time."
But even through the foreboding and doom, loves light keeps shining through. In "Keep Your Heart," Adebimpe wearily wonders, "If the world all falls apart/ How am I going to keep your heart?" By song's end, he's certain he will.