Nine Types of Light

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26. Apr. 2011, 4:54

Tunde Adebimpe might be the most electric Nigerian-born frontman since Fela Kuti. Because I can’t think of many others and because Fela’s dead. But also because Tunde’s pretty electric, albeit completely different, in his own right. Same goes for his band, TV on the Radio.

They might not be as political as Fela but they’re certainly hip to the times. No Future Shock is proof enough. On the chorus, Tunde sings, “Dance. Don’t stop/ Oh, do the no future, do the no future./ Shock. Don’t stop./” Today’s youth are jaded, unsure of the world “those bastards broke,” and Tunde says it’s time to dance. Even when you’re too young or too powerless to change the world, you’re never too powerless to dance and certainly never too young.

But if you like to dance, Caffeinated Consciousness is an even better choice. If it were the eighties, I could see the Beastie Boys rapping over this song. It’s arena rock-ready riffs and vocals on the verses, however tempered by softened, melodic vocals and guitar on the hooks.

Of course, my next-favorite track is Forgotten, where an atmospheric sonar bloop, cycling through soft strings, plays host to some of my favorite lyrics on the album. On the second verse Tunde sings, Beverly Hills... nuclear winter./ What should we wear? And what's for dinner?/ Sure, Beverly Hills is an easy target but great zing regardless. Plus, there's nuclear winter and cannibalism. Can't go wrong with either of those, especially both combined.

Tunde’s falsetto, likewise, is delightful and playful as always, especially on Second Song alongside his half-talked lyrics about how “appetites and impulses confuse” him until he feels spent by the end of the day but “when the night comes,” he’s “fiendin’ like a pyro.” As caffeinated as he is, I’d imagine so.

Will Do, on the other hand, could use a little caffeine boost. It's your typical tale of un-returned love, of a man unable to move on but TV on the Radio style. It’s the most accessible track on the album, which makes sense since it was released as the album’s lead single. I don’t dislike the song but I prefer the remix.

Actually, there are two remixes. The Will Do (XXXchange Dancehall Mix) runs Tunde’s vocals through a garbage can of effects. Arguably, the synth-driven, aggressive dancehall music wouldn’t otherwise fit the vocals, but there’s a reason for that—they aren’t particularly club-friendly.

Will Do (Switch Remix), on the other hand, while it also adds club-ish sub bass, leaves the basic vocals intact and gives the song an airier, more atmospheric feel with tinkling piano and synth strings. It tampers with the vocals only to add extra percussive effect, stuttering and repeating sounds of his words.

Light is no reinvention, but TV on the Radio never needed a reinvention, just enough experimental flourishes to their formulas to keep it interesting and enjoyable.

Best Tracks: "Caffeinated Consciousness," "Second Song," "Forgotten," "No Future Shock"
Album Rating: 4/5

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