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Better Than: Their headlining set at Pitchfork in 2011.
TV On The Radio is at an interesting crossroads. After completing a three-album deal with Interscope, the Brooklyn four-piece is returning to the fold with a reinvigorated passion for their craft.
Lead singer Tunde Adebimpe revealed to Spin last week that the band is currently at work on their sixth LP, and Saturday night, during their headlining set at Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, fans got their first taste of some promising new material. The band closed out the three-day festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music with a high-energy set that consisted of one new song and a number of hits from their small but impressive catalog.
Originating in the early 2000s, TV On The Radio somehow managed to sonically replicate the cultural dissonance of disillusioned twenty-somethings fumbling through the waking nightmare that was the Bush era. Splicing experimental electronic music and indie rock to create a distinct post-industrial sound, the band scored their first hit early on with “Staring at the Sun” and followed up with two superb albums, Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes and Return To Cookie Mountain.
Unfortunately, the fans they’d amassed with their first two albums had already lifted their chins when they released their third album, Dear Science, in 2008. Not only had twenty-somethings grown more hopeful with the promise of a newly elected president, the indie crowd began to tip in favor of more upbeat dance-inspired artists like Cut Copy and MGMT. As a result, Dear Science incorporated hints of dance music to mixed results, but highlights like “DLZ” maintained the dingy, dour feel of their earlier work.
The follow-up to Dear Science, 2011’s Nine Types of Light, suffered from similar if more obvious missteps, giving some the impression that they simply phoned it in to fulfill their final obligation to Interscope. These suspicions were confirmed during TV On The Radio’s performance at Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, where songs from that album were mostly absent.
During “Caffeinated Consciousness,” Kyp Malone and Dave Sitek hung their heads and moved lifelessly around the stage, before excitedly returning to hits like “Young Liars” and “Wolf Like Me.” The show kicked off promptly at 10:45, after a voice came over the intercom in the lobby, announcing that the concert had been oversold and there might not be ample seating. Reacting to the announcement, show-goers downed their drinks and flocked to the entrance of the Howard Gilman Opera House.
The band’s uptempo set reflected the anxious energy of the crowd. Adebimpe darted around the stage during “Halfway Home” and “Wolf Like Me,” working both sides of the audience. With the exception of a small standing room area in front, the show was entirely seated, but the crowd was justifiably amped. Breaks between songs were kept short and there wasn’t a lull in the entire performance.
Banter was even kept to minimum, save for a few thank you’s and the announcement of a new song, a thrashy pulsating jam that seemed to draw from a newfound punk influence. Saving the best for last, they closed out the show with an inspiring rendition of “Staring At The Sun.”
Back to the interesting crossroads at which TV On The Radio have found themselves, during Adebimpe’s recent Spin interview, he mentions, “They can ask about another record, but I don’t think we’re gonna do that” in regard to the band’s relationship with Interscope. And really, why should they? With a three-album deal on a major label, they may have briefly compromised their integrity and lost a few fans, but now, they’re financially stable to the point where creative risks are no longer a dicey proposition. In fact, that may be the only option they have left if they want to move steadily into the future. Luckily, after hearing a small preview of their new material, this seems to be the path that they’re taking.
Overheard: “This is my favorite song. I heard it on Entourage.”
Critical Bias: TV on the Radio is one of my go-to bands during seasonal depression.