TV On The Radio – Return To Cookie Mountain (2006): Review

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Produced by David Sitek
Label – 4AD/Interscope/Touch & Go

By 2006, TV On The Radio were the darlings of alternative music and particularly the written music press. You wouldn’t have to look far to find them adorning magazine covers or web site home pages with a gushing critique or review. Even David Bowie weighed in with the excited reverie, regularly referencing them in interview, and it came as no surprise that he contributed to “Return To Cookie Mountain”. Since earning a short shift music prize for their “Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes” album, the anticipation would lead to an internet leak just prior to physical release. The collection forges on from its predecessor, further developing the bands’ exploration in abstract rhythms, sweeping, complex melodies, and twin vocalists Kyp Malone and Tunde Adebimpe’s pursuit of a mix of chant, falsetto and dirge vocals.

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For all its courageous intent, “Return To Cookie Mountain” suffers from dramatic inconsistencies. The opener, “I Was A Lover”, rewards the listener with clunky, awkward rhythms and a vocal that fails to effectively harmonize Malone and Adebimpe. The disappointment is quickly countered by the next song, “Hours”, which highlights exactly why the New Yorkers are so highly lauded. Layered beats, with lush, almost doo-wop vocals bring home the full extent of an intriguing bout of melancholia. The album continues with the same polarity, and whilst “Province” and “Wolf Like Me” hit home, “Playhouses” and “Tonight”, show the band’s limitations, with complex drum and bass backing murky instrumentation, any semblance of melody is lost in an aural fog. There are few bands that extend the experimental notion as strongly as TV On The Radio, but the results on this record are as painful as they are exhilarating.

“Return To Cookie Mountain” is a flickering kaleidoscope of bright musical ideas; but ideas don’t always make for compelling songs.

6/10

Track Listing

“I Was a Lover” (Kyp Malone, David Andrew Sitek) – 4:21
“Hours” (Tunde Adebimpe) – 3:55
“Province” (Malone, Sitek) – 4:37
“Playhouses” (Malone) – 5:11
“Wolf Like Me” (Adebimpe) – 4:39
“A Method” (Adebimpe) – 4:25
“Let the Devil In” (Malone) – 4:27
“Dirtywhirl” (Adebimpe) – 4:15
“Blues from Down Here” (Malone) – 5:17
“Tonight” (Adebimpe) – 6:53
“Wash the Day” (Malone, Sitek, Adebimpe) – 8:08
“Untitled” – 1:44

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