Album Reviews

TV On The Radio – Return To Cookie Mountain

(4AD) UK release date: 3 July 2006

I remember the last time I went to Cookie Mountain. It was 14 years ago. It was a place where a nine-year-old’s imagination could be warped and cocooned in a shell of innocence; a dream world of cerulean blue skies, grassy knolls and all manner of beast a burden. There was a castle too, where resided Ludwig Van Koopa, who carried a magic musical wand which menaced a tune that ruined all that was good about the Mushroom Kingdom. I assure you I’m not on anything when I write this.

OK I give up. Cookie Mountain is the third of seven worlds in Super Mario World. Just like Brooklyn’s finest lumbers, a core partnership is central to our heroes’ success, in TVOTR’s case it is that of singers Kyp Malone and Tunde Adebimpe. Their visual arts and production backgrounds alloy electro, soul, punk, trip hop, a cappela and gospel – see 2004’s acclaimed Desperate Youth, Thirsty Babes if you ever thought such a thing possible.

Where their first album was the spaghetti junction of alt rock records, Cookie Mountain is a much more cohesive tray of psychedelic beats-driven songs. The opener manages to sand together creaky falsetto with regressive sampling. The Hours has a gloomy, sinister tint to it delivered with a melody to die for.

David Bowie‘s appearance and influence on Province is plain to see, with it being more Bowie than the Bowie of late. Wolf Like Me’s incredibly hooky electro-punk is an obvious choice for the album’s lead single.

Commercial causes are however, the very least of TVOTR’s considerations. In fact it’s that other C-word. No, not that one, I mean concept. Cookie Mountain is a parallel for everyday life with its challenges, its beauty, its pitfalls and monsters. In the record’s case, the references hint at addiction, lust and lost love.

Listening to the record feels like you’re listening to the accompanying soundtrack to an anime flick or a dark comic book, though it doesn’t quite work while playing Mario World. The latter half of the record veers from its strong first portion, with a string of long soul-prog numbers. Various jams ensue, with TVOTR’s musicianship making even Broken Social Scene seem like the Ramones.

While far from immaculate, Cookie Mountain is the logical progression from Desperate Youth, with its conception fruit enough for those who appreciate musical innovation. This band are music’s unlikeliest heroes in every sense of the word. So be polite and take a bite from the cookie while the trail to the mountain still exists…

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