Dear Science is TV On The Radio’s fourth album and their most accessible yet. Blending their funk roots with a more poppy edge, this album should further extend the Brooklynites’ steadily growing audience.
There is much more focus than the last two offerings, 2004’s Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes and 2006’s Return To Cookie Mountain, shedding the layers of distortion for a more sparkly approach.
Even though this album is more direct than its predecessors, it is still a wholly TV On The Radio album, with the myriad influences shining through on each track. Whether it be soul, rap, punk, rock or electronica, it is easy to tell from any song that this band live and breathe music from all walks of life.
All the tracks are penned by either main vocalist Tunde Adebimpe or guitarist/vocalist Kyp Malone, but are then opened up and developed by the band as a whole. Dave Sitek, who recently produced Scarlett Johansson‘s musical arrival, pulls the strings and adds cohesion. With most of the band proficient on any instrument, the combinations and possibilities seem endless, highlighting the importance of Sitek’s role.
Not just content with the capabilities of the central five, help is recruited from Antibalas‘ horn section and the vocals of Celebration‘s Katrina Ford, who also featured on the early Young Liars EP as well as Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes.
Album opener Halfway Home will set TV On The Radio fans at ease with its “don’t I know this already?” feel, but the quintet’s new approach reveals itself strikingly in the next track, Crying. Summery funk guitars and ’80s pop basslines dominate giving an immediate foothold into the album.
The explosion of colour is complete when augmented by the bright horn fanfare and synth lines. Dancing Choose is a lot dirtier, sounding more like Saul Williams with its intensifying frustrated rapping and subby undertones.
There is brief respite in Stork And Owl before the first single, Golden Age, ups the pace again with its LCD Soundsystem-esque bassline and build-up. Strings are balanced by fuzz guitars, and Ford’s backing vocals add an other-wordly feel to this infectious number. Red Dress is a nugget of TV On The Radio-stamped Afrobeat. Towards the end, horns and keys come to the fore leaving the listener wanting the track to go on for another 20 minutes, Fela Kuti style.
Despite the obvious dancey feel to a lot of Dear Science, there are tender moments such as in the nostalgic Family Tree or the poignantly string-laden Love Dog. Before it gets too soppy, the freneticism is back with Shout Me Out which erupts when you least expect it from a beginning reminiscent of the Doctor Who theme into a delirious freakout. The album closes with the fittingly jubilant and processional Lover’s Day to emphasize the upbeat nature of the record.
Deep Science should enhance TVOTR’s reputation as one of the finest, forward-thinking bands around, along with fellow Brooklyn acts Animal Collective and Liars. It may not have a Staring At The Sun or a Wolf Like Me, but it still serves as a great introduction to anyone not lucky enough to have experienced the band so far.