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Old 03-31-2009, 02:51 AM   #1 (permalink)
Pale and Wan
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Default TV On The Radio - Return to Cookie Mountain

Released in 2006 by Interscope Records.

Indie rock can be pretty stale genre at times, of course the term taken literally should be incredibly open ended, but somehow the boundaries of the genre have narrowed. Jangly guitars, nasal vocals, maybe some folk influence - the formula of it all starts to seem completely at odds with the spirit of independent music. But in every scene there's always innovators, and it's bands like TV on the Radio that invigorate and give purpose to the indie scene; to welcome and be a haven for a sound that couldn't have developed in the mainstream.

Return to Cookie Mountain is their major label debut, and at the time was probably their most accessible, a progression that would continue in the full blown hooks of their following album Dear Science. But this isn't music for the masses, it can't be unravelled easily. The production is dense and layered with fuzz, the rhythms are too complex to dance to and the guitars are atonal buzz-saws.
If you will forgive a point made through generalisations, they're a black band in a world of skinny white boys in tight jeans, and their use of more traditionally black music is a key aspect of their unique sound. The dual vocals harmonies of Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone are strongly soul influenced, underpinned by the funk grooves of their horn section. A shoegaze sensibility runs through the music - there's a lot going on behind this curtain but you can only appreciate it if your willing to work.

Lyrically the album is darker than the soaring harmonies would suggest, songs of lonliness and loss, despair and isolation. 'I was a lover' opens the album with a slow, sharp beat and pulsing strings. In a haunted falsetto, Adebimpe mourns a decaying relationship contrasting bitterly absurd metaphors with prosaic observations,

I'm locked in my bedroom, so send back the clowns
my clone wears a brown shirt, and I seduce him when there's no one around
mano y mano, on a bed of nails
bring it on like a storm, till I knock the wind out of his sails
And we don't make eye contact, when we have run-in's in town
just a barely polite nod, and nervous stares towards the ground

It only gets bleaker from there, 'Hours' depicts a nameless protagonists abandonment, social persecution and eventual suicide. Province masks its story of love at the end of the world in soaring vocals, twinkling piano and a seemingly uplifting chorus, with backing vocals by Bowie himself. The despair of the verses is almost reminiscent of Cormac McCarthy's 'The Road',

Now entering the middle of the album we reach some more energetic songs, 'Playhouses' is tangle between hooking up at party and memories of innocence lost, ending on the side of cynicism with the line 'still get wasted sometimes.'
'Wolf Like Me', the lead single is a fever dream of sex and madness, the most immediate song on the album. The beat and chanting vocals pack a visceral punch with the frenetic guitar bubbling underneath, a perfect match for the lyrics.

Got a curse we cannot lift
Shines when the sunshine shifts
There's a curse comes with a kiss
The bite that binds the gift that gives

'A Method' is a breath of air, opening with whistling and a sing song lullaby delivery. 'Let the Devil In' follows with the most powerful, abrasive beat on the album. The subject matter is dark once again, but put forth in a more light hearted way with a touch of humour, "they let the devil in, he brought his pirate friends."

My favourite song from the album is 'Blues from Down Here.' I can't settle on any proper interpretation of the lyrics, but the menace of that droning guitar and Malone's inspired vocal performance is blissful.

Return to Cookie Mountain is a masterpiece and cements TV on the Radio as the best act in current rock. They lost none of their kinks, intelligence or creativity in transferring to a major label and I'm glad they're starting to be recognised by a wider audience.

Last edited by Fruitonica; 03-31-2009 at 04:43 AM.
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Old 03-31-2009, 03:05 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I checked it out based on your recommendation, and I definitely think it's an awesome album, but this is one of the rare instances where I like a band's more mainstream work. I'm addicted to Dear Science.
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Old 03-31-2009, 03:20 AM   #3 (permalink)
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At the moment so am I, it's a much more immediate album. Very good even if I don't totally like the direction they're headed in.

Edit: I just noticed I left the band name out of the thread title. If a mod could edit it in I'd appreciate it.

Last edited by Fruitonica; 03-31-2009 at 04:47 AM.
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Old 03-31-2009, 03:49 PM   #4 (permalink)
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To me this record wasn't as immediately accessible as Dear Science but now I play it just as much..."Blues from Down Here" is also my favorite from the album but that could change over time...But it is very different from Dear Science as a whole record which I like because it means that at least they try to expand their sound with each record.
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Old 04-01-2009, 12:54 PM   #5 (permalink)
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TV on the Radio is amazing, this is such a great album. Thumbs up on the review!

not everyone can make it to the pros,
some rise to the top, others down low.
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Old 04-04-2009, 06:02 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Really good review, sound like this band certainly has a lot of layers. I've heard such great things about Tv on the radio. I actually have their discography but have been preoccupied with other music. I just put on Deer Science but doubt I'll spend enough time with it before I go to bed to appreciate it, although it does sound interesting enough to get excited about. I'll come back to this once I'm listening to that album, thanks for all the effort.
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Old 04-12-2009, 06:57 PM   #7 (permalink)
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awesome album. these guys are just starting to pick up steam...
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Old 04-12-2009, 06:59 PM   #8 (permalink)
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They are just starting to pick up steam four years ago.
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Old 04-12-2009, 07:03 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I think its crazy that such an awesome band hasn't managed to generate more than one page of a thread by now. what is wrong with people's taste in music !?!??!
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Old 04-12-2009, 11:27 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I love them, I saw them at the Big Day Out and they kicked ass, probably one of my favourite performances there.
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