They’re still sombre, but the Manchester pop duo flirt with optimism on a fist-pumping third album
TV On The Radio
With ‘Dear Science’ you get the impression that Sitek intends to change all that. Certainly, it’s TVOTR’s most accessible album so far, but this isn’t simply the case of band caving in and giving the people what they want. Rather, ‘Dear Science’ cuts through genres like a laser through a music encyclopaedia, making strange connections, but always with pop clarity as the ultimate aim. As ever, Sitek’s production shines. Every track is loaded with sonic tricks; there’s handclaps, sparring horns, unexpected new layers that loom out of the canvas like a Magic Eye canvas. The opening ‘Halfway Home’ is roughly what you might get if you blended The Trashman’s surf-rock classic ‘Surfin’ Bird’ with the gravity-defying synths of Gary Numan. ‘Golden Age’ comes on like Michael Jackson’s ‘Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough’ until the chorus, which explodes into brass-lifted gospel.
Sometimes Adebimpe’s lyrics have seemed cold and elliptical, but here they flip back in on themselves, with puns and free association… and did he really just sing something about a “foam-injected Axl Rose”? There is the very occasional slip towards pastiche: ‘Crying’ couldn’t be more Prince if it changed its name to a toddler’s squiggle. But when ‘Dead Science’ works smoothly, it’s stunning. See the sparse, elegiac ‘Stork And Owl’, which sees Adebimpe’s bruised falsetto fall gently to Earth through slow gusts of plucked strings and strummed harp. So Dave, are we allowed to call this a great rock “band” yet?
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