September 28, 2006

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TV on the Radio, Return to Cookie Mountain
Interscope, 2006

Whenever I raved about 2004’s Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes, by Brooklyn art-rockers TV on the Radio, my praise always seemed to fall on deaf ears. Perhaps that will change with TV on the Radio’s latest offering, the long delayed Return to Cookie Mountain. This album finds the band expanding and improving its dense, futuristic sound, producing a sonic stew that demands to be heard with headphones.

Opener “I Was a Lover” begins with hiccupping electronic blips and bleeps that eventually work their way into a cohesive and propulsive rhythm. “I was a lover before this war,” singer Tunde Adebimpe croons, and it’s unclear if he’s referring to the literal Iraq war or a more spiritual battle being waged within. Either way, once David Sitek’s churning, fuzzed-out guitars blaze to life and a random piano interlude temporarily interrupts the proceedings, you won’t really care what the hell Adebimpe’s singing about.

Lyrical vagueness aside, Adebimpe possesses an amazing voice best showcased when it’s harmonized with singer/guitarist Kyp Malone as on “Provincial” (which also features David Bowie) and “A Method,” a kind of futuristic doo-wop that sails along on vocals and handclaps. Slow-burners “Blues From Down Here” and the stellar “Wolf like Me” come about as close to conventional rock as TV on the Radio is likely to get and “Wash the Day” proves a melancholy yet slightly hopeful ballad.

True, Cookie Mountain boasts a bigger, more polished sound, but this is in keeping with TV on the Radio’s multi-instrumental mini-suites. The band pulls off that trickiest of challenges, managing to be experimental and ambitious without becoming boring or overly artistic (*cough* Mars Volta! *cough*). Suffice to say, Return to Cookie Mountain is hands-down one of the best records you’ll hear this year. As for those who ignore me again ... well, I guess it’s your loss really. A

— Adam Marletta