TV on the Radio guitarist Kyp Malone is trying to explain the ins and outs of negotiating success as he walks down the street in his South Williamsburg neighborhood. "It's what all my friends have been trying for, as long as I can remember," he divulges of the level of acclaim his band has reached since forming in 2001. But Malone understands now that his position remains a struggle: "You're trying to find a balance between creativity and commerce, and there is actually no balance."
TV on the Radio has a penchant for mixing experimental noise with its heart-stirring rock. The group strikes a new accord between the two on its third album, Dear Science, which drops Sept. 23. Unlike its 2006 release, Return to Cookie Mountain, major-label upgrades won't tie up the disc from hitting shelves in the States, and the recording process was the smoothest the band has experienced so far. Yet Malone still can't figure out how to talk about it. "The work is articulated into as succinct a statement as we were capable of making, and yet then we have to go back and try to talk about it over and over again," he says. "I feel like if I wrote a book on effective advertising, I could pepper my words to keep people's interest."
Thankfully, Dear Science can speak for itself. Return to Cookie Mountain, made in the post-Katrina morass of the second Bush administration, pined for simpler times and better days, and Dear Science finds TV on the Radio still politically acute. Yet the band is also sonically realizing that it can be the good time now. Guitarist and producer Dave Sitek's trademark buzzsaw guitars cut through opener "Halfway Home," but that telltale noise soon recedes and the band gets down: Hi-hats pop like bacon grease, chicken-scratch guitars abound, and braying horns surround singer Tunde Adebimpe's falsetto on "Crying." By the next song, "Dancing Choose," Adebimpe spits about "a newspaper man [who] gets his ideas from a newspaper stand ... and he can't understand that he's not in command/the decisions underwritten by the wallet in his hand" at a feverish clip, a startling change from his usually smooth delivery. Disco-indebted beats from drummer Jaleel Bunton, handclaps, and night-move guitar lines propel songs like "Red Dress" and "Golden Age." On the latter, just as you think the groove is going to go on forever, strings come to light (scored by bassist Gerard Smith), reflecting new contours of the beat.
Closer "Lover's Day" is one track Malone is particularly proud of, in that he sought "to make a song about fucking that is not about conquest and that isn't about straight-up consumption ... there's more to the act than just bodies hitting together." Punched-in horns din, a tambourine rattles off in a corner, and the song swells to great proportions. The band riffs off the typical sex song as Adebimpe assuages: "Give me the keys to your hiding place/I'm not gonna tear it apart/I'm gonna keep you weak in the knees/try and unlock your heart." The track also unveils the variegated forms of libidinous behavior that get stifled by, as Malone puts it, "this idea of desire [that] is sold to us." Maybe he understands effective marketing after all.