The TV On The Radio guitarist shines in the dark, but he's best when he's angry
With the advent of ‘Dear Science’ [a]TV On The Radio[/a] finally conjured a pop record that critics – both the sort who hail David Guetta and those who enjoy [a]Einstürzende Neubauten[/a] – could hold up as an offering to the skies. Before, their phosphorescent soul had always been more interesting than listenable, but ‘…Science’ saw them pitch their stall on that heavenly nexus where texture, groove and melody join perfectly.
That Dave Sitek is credited with all that was good about it was exaggerated by the hi-vis jacket he wore after undertaking the job of making [a]Scarlett Johansson[/a] sound slightly less dreadful than she does in reality. Really, it’s Kyp Malone, their fleet-fingered guitarist, who shines most brightly on ‘…Science’, his silvery, Talking Heads jams and burning falsetto soul lighting up the album like a match to magnesium.
Moving out of the shadows, Kyp is involved in his own extra-curricular projects these days, twiddling the knobs on [a]Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson[/a]’s recent album – a record of absolution that this, Kyp’s own solo offering, shares a turbulent spirit with. [b]‘Rain Machine’[/b] is introspective – to the point of being painfully earnest. This is a man who balances the theories of anarcho-primitivist Derrick Jensen with raising a nine-year-old daughter. He’s certainly never got much of a kick out of people going on about him being a hirsute kind of guy (“It’s just fucking hair,” he said recently). With nary a sonic chuckle, then, he swings between hope and desolation.
Half of it’s as good as anything TVOTR have ever done. Kyp utilises the same sonic tricks in digital ballads infused with banjos and a raging, tribal [b]‘Give Blood’[/b], while others come chock-full with handclaps and tambourine, as on the exultant [b]‘Free Ride’[/b], where Kyp’s soulful refrain “It’ll be alright” warps into something nightmarish. [b]‘Smiling Black Faces’[/b] is a damning exposition of the shooting of a young black man.
Where Kyp falls short is when he’s kicking dust in the gloom. Unlike that first half, which packs an empathetic punch, he fails to remember the solution to Jensen’s argument (a more harmonious way of life, man) and we’re left with glum-struck meanderings and growling laments that fall well short of shit-kicking. It’s fine to get the blues and everything, but Kyp sounds better when he’s seeing red.
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Click here to get your copy of ‘Rain Machine’ from the Rough Trade shop.