TV On The Radio, Dear Science
Resisting over-thinking matters and letting their natural grooves shine through
The intentionally tinny, scratchy, restless rhythms on TV on the Radio's fourth album are more Talking Heads than Sly Stone, but they're meaty and full-blooded enough to avoid the pitfalls of over-studious white funk. This is the charm of Dear Science,, a record that finds the Brooklyn quintet inhabiting a happy — and also charged, funky and riveting — middle ground between their early all-out wild experimentation and the more song-based structures of 2006's Return To Cookie Mountain.
You can see why Bowie's a fan: TVOTR share his questing, cliché-eschewing creativity. You can also discern how band-brain Dave Sitek made Scarlett Johansson's album of Tom Waits covers strangely seductive: On Dear Science,, the obvious path is rarely taken, yet the soul and sass of songs shines through. The heavier, thumping "dance" tracks — like the frenetic "Halfway House," the wannabe-Prince sighs of "Crying" and the world-music-influenced "Red Dress" — show a smart awareness of both "classic" funk ("Golden Age" even recalls heyday Michael Jackson) and state-of-the-art movers of a more recent vintage (MGMT, Yeasayer). Even more impressive are the pauses for breath; the gentle-but-swaggering ballads like "Stork And Owl" or the strings-and-piano-soaked "Family Tree." At all times, there's a conscious attempt not to over-think matters (something the peripatetic outfit may have been guilty of in the past), and to let the grooves flaunt their natural joy.
Energetic and elevated, TV On The Radio have cut the crackle, reduced (by their standards) the fiddly interference, and tuned in to their own strengths. They've emitted their clearest, most compelling signals yet. The results are subtly addictive.