Their new album might just have leaked, but the Brooklynites are in a playful mood. Starlite Lounge, Edmonton, Canada (September 10)
It is commonly agreed that Ravel’s ‘Boléro’ is the best song to have sex to in the known world – a twining melody, repetitive driving snare rhythm, a sudden key change building to a fierce crescendo and soft, winsome diminution. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am. But in the hyper-compressed whirligig of the modern age, most don’t have time for a 17-minute orchestral helter-skelter. Take that girl in the front row – the one making the sign, just as TV On The Radio saunter back for an encore, reading “I lost my virginity to ‘Staring At The Sun’. Please play it for me.”
Tunde plucks it from her pliant hands, reads it, grins one of his ineffable charismatic grins, looks almost bashful, then spends the rest of the encore wandering round the stage with it clutched absently in one hand, before announcing, “OK, this goes out to Karen…” For all that track’s molten sex appeal, most of the rest of their output tends to be a lot more professional. Sitek had promised to cut the clutter for album three and the four new tracks they premiere are certainly loosed from the infinitely layered spectral murk that made ‘Return To Cookie Mountain’ such a rewarding repeat listen. They’re ever-more teeming with ideas, dabs of disco, slivers of Afrobeat, licks of jumbotronica all sticking out at odd angles like the stuff in the shopping trolleys of the homeless. In spite of his claims, it seems a lot more chewy – less likely to repay the first-time listener. Though the kids down the front already mouthing along to the words aren’t all first-time listeners – fervent stuff given that ‘Dear Science’ only leaked online the previous day.
The slinky disco of ‘Golden Age’ is the best demonstrator of the ‘kick-drum and voice’ philosophical re-ordering Sitek’s been on about (“the drum is the heartbeat, and the voice is the human voice”). Then there’s ‘Dancing Choose’, Tunde’s sulphurous near-rap about the pleb-in-the-street who “gets his ideas from a newspaper stand”, which sounds oddly close to Bloc Party’s ‘Mercury’. ‘Shout Me Out’ shows glimmers of drum’n’bass, before the gorgeous Kyp-led wilting strings of ‘Stork & Owl’ poke their head above the parapet during the encore. If they are, as some are trying to make out, the next Radiohead (the face of the overground-underground) then, as Thom Yorke noted when premiering ‘Paranoid Android’: “If you can have sex to this one, you’re fucking weird.”