TV On The Radio is yet another group that I was a little late on in terms of jumping on the wagon. I'd read a great deal of press about their debut Young Liars EP, but didn't even hear it until after I'd heard this, their newest full length. The EP was 5 tracks of raw power and it sounded like a group that had nowhere to go but up, but some of that energy seems to have been lost in the transaction to their first full length. Don't get me wrong, there are some amazing songs on Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, but overall it still feels like a transition release of a group really trying to nail things.
That's not to say there's nothing to shake you down, though, and that's apparent on the first track of "The Wrong Way." Opening with a blast of horns, the track rumbles along with a dirty-ass bassline and slippery programmed beats as horns skronk out in backing of vocalists Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone. The duo build the track into a stompalong frenzy as guitar ripples shimmer and the whole thing reaches a crescendo without ever fully rocking out. "Staring At The Sun," the only holdover song from their debut EP is a solid follow-up, and from there the group is onto the equally great "Dreams." Even though it runs a smidge on the repetitive side, the group again works the most simple of changes to create a song that feels like some weird bastard child of indie rock, drone, and R&B. Oh yeah, and it works quite well.
It's after the first third of the album where things get a smidge more uneven. "King Eternal" takes the gritty bass and mixes it with almost My Bloody Valentine-esque sheets of guitar, but the track lacks the dynamics and hooks of the opener, while "Poppy" is effective atmosphere (with huge guitars and almost tribal beats) but simply continues on for too long. Likewise, "Bomb Yourself" mixes quick bursts of guitars with more unique vocal pairings, but even a funky bassline can't sustain it for the overlong running length.
And really, that seems to be the problem with the latter half of the album in general. The acapella "Ambulence" is the only track that really stands out, both lyrically and musically. Heck, it's basically a weird doo wop track, but sounds fresh given the rest of the slightly sludgy tracks around it. There's nothing that has the amount of urgency that the opening tracks of the release have, and instead of sustaining a powerful energy the release just sort of slowly teeters away. After their exciting debut EP and some standout tracks on this release, I have no doubt that TV On The Radio is still a group to watch out for, I'll just have to remember to keep my excitement tempered a bit.