Brooklyn’s finest experimental art-rockers TV On The Radio have always seen more critical acclaim than commercial recognition – their genre-skipping, heavily atmospheric post-rock gets all to easily pigeonholed as “critic rock” for its apparent cerebral ambition and left-field quirkiness.
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Brooklyn’s finest experimental art-rockers TV On The Radio have always seen more critical acclaim than commercial recognition – their genre-skipping, heavily atmospheric post-rock gets all to easily pigeonholed as “critic rock” for its apparent cerebral ambition and left-field quirkiness. That would be unfair: if furiously inventive, they’re really anything but self-indulgent, and always amid the clouds of dirty, industrial electro or off-kilter Arcade Fire-instrumentation, there’s solid-gold pop clarity at heart. Their latest, Dear Science, has brought that sleeker pop sensibility further to the fore, with still as great a sense of purpose as ever, to stupidly good effect.
Dear Science doesn’t mark a particularly radical shift for the band, structurally, sonically or lyrically, but there’s a newly found, visceral optimism that seeps through its every pore. Leading single “Golden Age” is one of the friskiest, most danceable outings of their career – if still helplessly doused in five-layers of stony irony; “Family Tree” is a surprisingly deadpan piano balled, the closest they come to earnest, yearning sentimentality. There’s a sense that it’s some sort of ploy, to shrug off all of the labels of darkness and dankness ever attributed to them, but, not ones to mess around, this remains a sober set of songs, each with a real sense of its own purpose. Love and war are pervading themes, delivered with a lighter sound, but by no means a lighter touch.
It’s also perhaps the most political, or politically framed record that we’ve seen from them. As the open-letter title suggests, the band have a gripe with an apparently disillusioned scientific community – one neglecting its collective genius for more trivial endeavour than the world’s more urgent problems. It’s not the sharpest of commentaries, nor one that too obviously affects the record, really, but TVOTR seem to have a thing for asking questions and grinding axes whenever they can – and if it makes them write such bone-crushingly brilliant music, who really cares what spurs them?