Does the absence of a song such as “Wolf Like Me” devalue a new venture by a popular band? TV on the Radio poses such a question to the audience of independent music with their newest effort Dear Science,.
By opening with “Halfway Home” the band walks the thinnest of lines between new direction and tried and true talent. The pounding song, full of handclaps, pushes forward, with an atmospheric guitar swirling in the background. Outside of the chorus, listeners will immediately notice the more subdued approach the band has embarked upon.
Oddly, the band discards the often apparent gang-vocals approach they’ve used in their previous albums, instead choosing to focus the singing duties for one singer per song, at least for the most part. Stranger still is the lack of real instruments present; the drums sound more programmed than anything they’ve done before. Sure, you have strings and horns, adding a strikingly subtle emotion to the entirety of the album, but no real musicianship, give or take a few songs.
Yet at the core of the album is a band that is able to perfect exactly what they want. This album comes off more as a traditional R & B album, with a revisionist standpoint. Of course there are a few odd songs, such as “Dancing Choose,” which is full of vocals reminiscent of Billy Joel when he was telling us that “we didn’t start the fire.” Then you juxtapose that with a song like “Family Tree,” which some might call the most beautiful song TV on the Radio has ever written, even with its Brit-Pop leanings.
Admiration is owed to the band for their desire to go in newer, albeit, stranger directions. They haven’t rested on their popularity; they have continued to progress with their own direction in tact. The throbbing bass lines of “Golden Age” with its funk skeletal backbone might have pushed some listeners away, but those that used the surface value of this song as a statement on the album will surely miss out on some of the more amazing moments that come out on this record.
At the end of the day, TV on the Radio have answered the question in regards to the necessity of having a driving single to push album sales. With or without a huge hit, this is an album that shows superior growth in an entirely new direction, as the band continues to open new doors for themselves. It’s all up to them to see where they can go. I expect those new progressive moments to be as beautiful as the Gill-Young Wedding I attended this past weekend.