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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

TV on the Radio delivers one Mountain of goods

Published: September 22, 2006
Section: Arts, Etc.

This is it;

this is the album that music lovers have been waiting for, despite the fact that most people have yet to be aware of it. For those who sought out another Nevermind for over a decade, for those who intended to find the next definitive band that would define a generation and change the way we think about music, that time has come. TV on the Radios sophomore album, Return to Cookie Mountain, is due to be the definitive record of the decade and usher in a new wave of musical composition.

This may be wishful thinking, but despite having the worst album name in years, Return to Cookie Mountain is packed with brilliant art-rock that doesnt risk credibility by taking TV on the Radios organic sound and making it catchier, slightly simpler, and overall more listenable. TV on the Radios first effort, desperate youth, blood thirsty babes, showed a band poised to take the world by storm with a unique mixture of funk, art-rock, punk, doo-wop, and yes, a cappella;

while the album produced some of the best indie songs of the first half of the decade, it collapsed by the end.

Fortunately, it seems as though the planets have aligned for the band, as their songwriting has matured dramatically, their ability to continually pen brilliant songs has withstood, and their signing to major label juggernaut Interscope has all snowballed into the major release of what is arguably one of the best albums in over a decade. With the combined power of the press, who have been gobbling the record like a certain fresh-baked good and Interscopes large distribution, kids in Kansas will soon have posters of vocalist Tunde Adebimpe lining the walls of their bedrooms.

Return to Cookie Mountain starts out with the skittish funky beats of I Was a Lover and marches on through the fifteen tracks of blank filler between the proper release (that combine to read These Funky Black Dudes And One Honkey Needed To Fill The CD To Capacity

Randomness), and the three bonus tracks available on the U.S. release. Needless to say, Return to Cookie Mountain is completely absent of a single dull or ill-conceived track, as each track contains a certain sense of urgency thats lost on most modern punk, while written with an intriguing sense of lyricism, and made with a pop-twist that anyone can find accessible. Back to the beginning, I Was a Lover is a funky little treat that most pop music lovers who jumped onto the Gnarls Barkley bandwagon will find equally irresistible;

with musical mastermind Dave Sitek at the boards, he punctuates the song with a backbeat of handclaps, swirls of guitar feedback, and the smooth reverberation of samples as Kyp Malone and Adebimpe sing about the depravity of contemporary society.

From Lover, the album takes off;

Hours is TV on the Radios most straightforward rock song since Staring at the Sun, yet is a little more restrained as Adebimpe stands on his soapbox for a more serious, if not altogether decipherable, song. From there, David Bowie steps in for Province, one of the standout (if that word can be used for the album) tracks that indie kids across the country have been rocking out to all summer. With Bowie providing an excellent backup for Malone and Adebimpe, the entire band comes together as their sound appears to swell at the most inspiring, and altogether hopeful, chorus. Amongst a backing of soothing sonic bombast, their voices combine as they belt out that love is the province of the brave.

Playhouses offers the hardest, most sporadic musical moment of the album as Jaleel Bunton makes good use of his drum kit as he pounds away while Adebimpe, Malone, and Omega C Taylor Moon belt out the most harrowing song on the album. Wolf Like Me is by far the most accessible song on the album and will most likely be the only song in Clear Channels rotation with any musical ingenuity, and for that, its perfect. Wolf Like Me is easily the most pop-friendly track on TV on the Radios discography and will easily win over the timid and inept music listeners, while the band takes a note from Bad Brains book as they marvelously move from a fast-paced anthem into a slow ballad and back again, all the while stopping before the dime and enjoying the view. This will be the song to watch out for;

theres no reason to compare it to Smells Like Teen Spirit or Loser, but it has the very same energy, presence, and power that those songs had as anthems for Generation X, and all the while Wolf Like Me still manages to have some semblance of meaning and definition to our society well just have to see exactly what in the coming months.

From there, A Method is a smooth, soothing track guided by a whistle and soft handclaps as it rises to dramatic heights by the songs end. Let the Devil In could very well have come from the bands earlier material as it swells with tribal instrumentation and nearly – guideless noise. Dirtywhirl is a beautiful little pop gem, while Blues From Down Here takes the cake on the later part of the album, bursting with a horn section and haunting vocals by Malone, Adebimpe, Katrina Ford, and Shanina Robinson. Tonight is probably the weakest track (if that word can even be used for this album), but still provides a wonderful musical detour, as Sitek takes the time for a sonic exploration, filling it with strangely beautiful feedback and noise. The official closer, Wash the Day is an opus that only TV on the Radio can pull off, as Siteks sitar guides the song through unheard psychedelic heights, as the band appears to be tampering with musical chaos, but instead weaves a beautiful eight minute mess that bursts with emotion.

Here would be the most logical point to discuss the three bonus tracks (Snakes and Martyrs, EL-Ps remix of Hours, and Things You Can Do), but theres no real point. Sure, theyre fine tracks, but the album wouldnt necessarily be worse off if they werent included. Simply put, the first eleven tracks are chock-full of enough captivating music that there shouldnt be a need for bonus tracks when each track on the proper album could easily carry the weight of an entire album with nothing but filler.

Fortunately, TV on the Radio decided to put all of the songs onto a singular album, making it the best album of the year, and one of the best albums in years. Whether or not this album will turn the band into the new Nirvana that people have been searching for is still up in the air, but if that doesnt happen, chances are that with Return to Cookie Mountain the band is destined for at least the cultural power to be this generations Pixies.

When it comes right down to it, no matter what happens, TV on the Radio has managed to create a fundamentally sound and purely brilliant album, which wont escape the mind of every person that hears it – and thats an accomplishment and a gift to the music world.