Like with Conor Oberst's more recent output, it was initially pretty difficult for me to get into the older, more mature and spiritual TV on the Radio. I mean, I liked 2008's Dear Science. I liked it a whole lot- it's great! But compared to the darker, more despotic heights of past triumphs Return to Cookie Mountain and the Young Liars EP, I was unsure of their future. When I saw them at the Metro in 2007 (with the absolutely extaordinary Subtle), they were already giving of a kind of "chill dad" vibe that was a little unsettling in light of how brilliantly unsettling their formative years were. What would an album called Nine Types of Light have to offer?
Well, I thought first single "Will Do" was sorta wack. It seemed pleasantly romantic, and of course well-produced (Dave Sitek will never let your ears down!), but felt weirdly slight in light of the emotional mountains that TVOTR have deconstructed throughout their career. Then, I saw the video:
and I DON'T KNOW WHAT IT IS, SISTERDUDE but it clicked with me on every level. The intense romance,
the spirituality, the sad creeping of age and loneliness, all bubbled and swirled together totally illuminating this stage of TVOTR's development. For TV on the Radio to be groping in this age toward genuine enlightenment and peace and lasting love, doesn't indicate complacency- but immnense courage. "No Future Shock", thematically, is just as "fuck, this world is fucked" as any thing in their library, but the boisterous horns and vibrant energy of the track aims to have us compulsively dance our way into joyous action and engagement. After all, better to fight for a sunnier world when the one inside you has cast out its clouds.
Whereas a slower moment on an earlier TVOTR release would often result in industrial dirges like "Blind," NToL's "Killer Crane" is a gorgeous, ascendant ballad. This is still an album that deals with weighty, complicated themes but the grace of the band's material and performances make it something special: beautiful. It's even more amazing that Tunde and co. can make it sound this easy when every song is brimming with sly, brilliant hooks and masterful sound placement. Nine Types of Light is one of the most "full" sounding albums I've ever heard. Seeing a band develop and grow over time can offer a blueprint of sorts for one's own eventual maturation. It feels good to still be rocking with this band. I'm as invested as ever in seeing where their considerable craft leads them next.
Rest in everlasting power, Gerard Smith.