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Album Review
Nine Types of Light

Nine Types of Light
by TV On The Radio


Review Date
26th April 2011
Reviewed by
Ricardo Kerr

Back in 2008, Dear Science by TV on the Radio was one of the most highly regarded albums of the year. It garnered well deserved plaudits from every sector of the music industry and helped to establish the band as one of the brightest lights in modern music. It is not an easy act to follow and their new album, Nine Types of Light, is quite a different affair. It’s as if they realised that they could never top themselves and have instead shot off in a new direction. The band has jettisoned much of the emotional baggage that had manifested in lyrical tirades and itchy guitars, opting to take a sunnier path forwards. This is the sound of a rock band that has become disillusioned with howling guitar assaults and sensory overloads, substituting them for synth bass squelches, horns section vamps, and electric blips where possible. The result is a catchy one and TV on the Radio has the song writing chops to carry the listener through the album’s weaker areas and keep them holding on for the A-grade material.

Is calling the first song on an album ‘Second Song’ trying too hard to be witty, or a cry for help? It cannot be overlooked that the beginning of the album is confused, like starting part way through a song that didn’t wait for you to be ready. Thankfully the album manages to built momentum as it progresses, with only the ineffectual ‘Killer Crane’ derailing the band before they get properly into the swing of things on the b-side. In a time when most modern rock records are front loaded with potential singles and allow themselves to grind to a creative standstill as they approach the end, it is refreshing to hear an album that is in no hurry to reach the end. As you approach the end though you will uncover some real gems, both familiar and otherwise, that reward your patience.

‘Repetition’ is a brash and hooky jaunt quite similar to their previous work. It walks the fine line between new wave and full blown punk rock. The interplay between guitar and vocals are practically joyous, which is not exactly what you expect from TV on the Radio but it is a welcome mood nonetheless. Rough, driving guitars return again for ‘Caffeinated Consciousness’ that ends the album with a bang. But these numbers are not representative of the overall sound. That honour goes to post-industrial love ballads (like lead single ‘Will Do’) and uplifting electro-soul (‘Keep Your Heart’ and ‘No Future Shock’). It is the mature assortment of moods and tones that will keep fans coming back for more.

Evolving a band’s signature sound into something that is entirely organic without alienating their existing fanbase is no mean feat. And of course you can’t please everyone (cue the cries of “sellout” from the disaffected masses). Many other bands would mellow to the point of sedation at this career junction, a dangerous trap for a band that made their name with the post-punk anxiety they wear on their sleeves. TV on the Radio not only survive this crossroads, but in doing so have made their most beautiful album yet, even if it isn’t their strongest.


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