Thursday, July 20, 2006

TBS Recommended: TV On The Radio- Return to Cookie Mountain

I remember the first time I heard the Pixies pretty clearly. Not because I loved it - I’m not even a huge Pixies fan compared to many out there. The reason I remember is because of the feeling it gave me. It’s a feeling that those of us that listen to music religiously have all had – the feeling that we were hearing something that was singularly unique and completely unclassifiable in our mind’s conception of music. In an age where music is pre-packaged, pre-classified, pre-marketed and compartmentalized before we ever hear it, it’s easy for the serious fan of music to listen to 95% of the music out there and immediately be able give it a genre and list a few of the band’s influences. So as a fairly sheltered suburban kid who listened almost exclusively to the Dave Matthews Band, watching a chic, urban hipster girl put on Doolittle and dance around manically while snarling like Frank Black, I was understandably shaken. It was so raw and foreign, yet it made complete sense. They were a band that you could point at and say, “These guys took music a step forward from where it was then to where it is now.”

You may have heard of Return to Cookie Mountain by now - and if you haven’t, you probably will pretty soon. One of those chic hipster girls will probably put it on the stereo at a party, and you will sit and stare for a while, soaking it in and realizing that you have no pre-made compartment in your brain for this music. This experience may leave you absolutely floored, or it may piss you off and confuse you. Either way, you won’t be able to explain what you heard after the fact.

This album is the sound of a band forging its own singular, unique, unclassifiable sound. That alone makes it worth the listen, and makes it one of the better albums to come out this year.

“I Was a Lover” starts it off with a bang, mixing electronic hip hop drums, a couple of fractured, hypnotic symphonic samples, Beatles-esque use of electric sitar, upper-register vocals, wall-of-noise guitar sound and a beautiful sing-a-long piano bridge into something all at once alarming, dark and yet incredibly danceable and joyous.

Trying to spot influences is futile – this is unlike anything out there now or ever before. It is an amalgamation of sounds and styles that shouldn’t work, yet inexplicably do. Tribal drums and chanting on “Let the Devil In,” four melodies, some whistling and doo-wop vocals on “A Method” and David Bowie singing backup vocals on “Province” all give this album a sense of grandeur.

Without a doubt the band doesn’t pull off everything perfectly. The soaring atmospherics and off-kilter drums on “Playhouses” drag a good idea out for too long, losing the sense of urgency that makes the awesome tracks (cc: “Wolf Like Me”) so great. “Blues From Down Here” wanders around, never heading in any particular direction. "Hours" is a pretty underwhelming reprise to "I Was A Lover."

But with an album like Return to Cookie Mountain, it’s less about execution and more about the effort and direction involved. This is an album and a band that (like the Pixies) doesn’t follow any rules and (unlike the Pixies) has no qualms about jumping between genres, styles and sounds at will, with occasionally incredible results. Over the top internet hype aside, the potential hinted at on 2003’s Young Liars EP and 2004’s Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes has finally come to fruition and TV On The Radio has arrived as one of the more innovative bands of our generation.

TV On The Radio- I Was A Lover from Return to Cookie Mountain

TV On The Radio- Wolf Like Me from Return to Cookie Mountain

Previous TBS Recommendations:

Destroyer- Destroyer's Rubies

Neko Case- Fox Confessor Brings The Flood

Liars- Drum's Not Dead

The Walkmen- A Hundred Miles Off


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