TV On The Radio, Return To Cookie Mountain
A cross-cultural record that's way more than the sum of its parts
It’s all too rare that a record comes along and simply shatters all expectations. 2006′s Return to Cookie Mountain, the second full-length for this Brooklyn-based combo, is one such work of near genius. An intoxicating blend of hip-hop rhythms and intricate, artful arrangements, of Prince-like vocal whelps, Outkast-style exuberance, and even a guest appearance from David Bowie (whose inspiration is obvious), it’s that impossibly elusive thing: a cross-cultural record that’s way more than the sum of its parts. Urban, urbane, and avant-garde in its literal sense, Cookie Mountain embodies (and embraces) confusion on every level — its mashed-up attitude towards genres, its extraordinary voices (think a streetwise Beach Boys), and its sophisticated use of the studio. Take “I Was a Lover,” the album’s extraordinary, disorientating opener. A fractured hip-hop rhythm is chopped up with giant slabs of FX-laden guitar. But that’s merely the framework on which much else hangs: a repeated sinister-sounding horn sample, a graceful piano part, a distressed sitar and the thrilling stretched vocals of Kyp Malone and Tunde Adebimpe. When they harmonise, “We don’t make eye contract when we have run-ins in town,” their words encapsulate both the alienation and the brazen single-mindedness that infuses every note of this extraordinary, ceaselessly engaging record.