Here we go with the second in my selection of “Albums I Have Been Obsessed With”, in no particular order.
I first heard “Dear Science” by TV on the Radio (4AD) while I was driving to the Off the Tracks festival in Derby earlier this year, heading to the first gig with the new Shadow Orchestra lineup (at the time!).
I gave a lift to Sam Walton, our new guitarist at the time, and in order to save us from my rather random selection of jazz/Prince/early Nirvana/White Zombie that lurks in my car, he brought some CDs – among them, TV on the Radio’s Dear Science, released in September 2008.
The band hail from New York, and their wikipedia profile boxes them as experimental rock and post-rock. It sounds pretty nerdy from the description – electronics-heavy indie made by a disparate bunch of guys who probably all wear glasses. But the album sounds way better than that.
From the second it started I was hooked. Opening track Halfway Home slams in with a vocal hook reminiscent of Surfin’ Bird, switching from single into double time to ramp up the energy.
On it goes – Crying harks back to Prince-before-he-went-shit while Dancing Choose is a high octane rant with a killer chorus. Stork and Owl is a bit of a downer, and I’m not too sure about it, but I love love LOVE the jerky rhythms and epic major-key hook of Golden Age (and the synthy bass in the middle eight. Gorgeous).
Red Dress is another funky number, with blasting horns and energetic guitar work, while Love Dog takes the tenpo down. I find TVotR’s slower songs tend to drag, but the lyrics of this one lift it up.
Another notable thing about this album is that TV on the Radio have used a lot of cunning musical tricks to make their songs sound awesome – some of which I will definitely be stealing. For instance, Family Tree is a perfect exercise in restaint and buildup.
The tracks spans five and a half minute, building imperceptibly like a frog in slowly warming water until it finally boils over. And DLZ employs a very neat “silence on the first beat of the bar” trick – as Sam pointed out when we were listening, it only works once, but it’s a smack in the chops when it hits you.
Closing track Lovers Day is a simply awesome piece of songwriting and production, from the militaristic sorties as the start to the power-pop of the middle and the wonky instrumental outtro, I love it.
But the song I keep returning to again and again is Shout me Out. It’s on my mp3 playlist when I go running, I keep hitting repeat when it comes on in the car, and I want do a little dance every time I hear it.
They use another classic trick – start half-speed then crank it up for a blistering drum’n’bass style finale. It’s cheesy, but incredibly effective (although I’d admit I’m a bit like Pavolv’s dog when it comes to that kind of chord sequence and beat – hear it, start dancing…).
Here’s the track, off of that there YouTube:
I’m hoping that The Shadow Orchestra can pull of the same trick and resurrect a tune that bit the dust for being too twee (Trace) – a dose of frenetic D’n’B might just do the trick.
But that’s my view – What do you think of Dear Science? Like it? Love it? Loathe it? And can you recommend anything similar? Sadly, TVotR’s earlier album Return to Cookie Mountain doesn’t really do it for me – anything else by them I should check out?