Album Review

Maximum Balloon

Maximum Balloon

by Maximum Balloon


8 / 10
28th October 2010

Reviewed by Courtney Sanders


TV on the Radio: Brooklyn-based musical geniuses led by Kyp Malone and backed by Dave Sitek’s production skills. Maximum Balloon: L.A based musical genius Dave Sitek enlists musical pals, including Kyp Malone, to accompany his writing and production effort. You would be forgiven for assuming this was simply TV on the Radio sans band, occasionally featuring band. Even during the first listen the beats scream Dear Science-era Sitek, and a bevy of the minds he’s enlisted for vocal duties are representative of TVOTR pals and collaborators of yore. But a couple of differences firmly set the two apart. TVOTR: politically motivated. Maximum Balloon: fun motivated. TVOTR: Brooklyn-based. Maximum Balloon: LA Based.

On Maximum Balloon, Sitek has shed lyrical obsession with dictatorial US governments and focused on inspirational, ephemeral odes. Similarly, his shift from NYC to sunny California has not only notably lifted his spirits, but as he stated in an interview with Dazed and Confused (he apparently wants to make music to “fuck grannies and shoot strippers to”), allowed him to simultaneously shed a constricting scene in Williamsburg (his words: “your back is up against the wall in New York. I was paying for an apartment and a studio and the price of my neighbourhood tripled in two years!”), and allowed him to explore that very Los Angelean of disciplines – pop music – with a bunch of industry heavyweights.

As a result, Maximum Balloon the album is riddled with sex and fun and fun and sex. Funky sex? Track four certainly applauds this, featuring a lovelorn Little Dragon whispering sweet nothings alongside upbeat bass lines and epic cymbal action, while Kyp Malone’s appearance is more ‘Red Dress’ from Dear Science and less his shoe gazing incarnation as side project Rain Machine (interesting how the two have gone in quite different directions outside of TVOTR). Even Karen O delivers the velveteen lyric “give me that beat / keep that beat on” in the chorus of ‘Communion.’ There’s subtle melancholic waverings, sure - Sitek did still write it - but every time I find myself dissecting a track, it involves the terms ‘groovy’ (literally and musically in the track ‘Groove Me’ featuring Theophilus London) ‘throbbing’ (musically, thankfully, on ‘Tiger’ feat. Aku) or ‘fun’ (David Byrne on track ‘Apartment Wrestling’). “Meow / meow / meow / meow” is even a lyric on ‘Tiger’. The epitome of meaningless fun? Yes.

In the wake of Obama’s election a lot of politically pessimistic musicians seem to have shifted their focus to matters of the heart. Brooklyn alumni Yeasayer transitioned from culturally depressive stream-of-conscious on All Hour Cymbals to pop-tastic love ballads on Odd Blood, for example. It seems David Sitek with Maximum Balloon has done the same. His age and world outlook coupled with the temperature in Californ-I-A couldn’t be better for turning the heat up.




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