Dear Science, TV On The Radio’s followup to 2006’s Return to Cookie Mountain, explores significant new ground for the band, although the results are hit-and-miss. The album surrounds Tunde Adebimpe’s singular voice with elements as diverse as brass instruments, synthesizers, and tribal drums. While the group’s previous albums combined signature guitar progressions with Adebimpe’s somber yet revelatory tone, Dear Science deviates substantially from this formula. Songs like “Crying” and “Love Dog” are the highlights of the album, fusing the classic feel of TVOTR with innovations that are simple, yet foreign enough to excite the listener. “Crying” pairs defiant lyrics with the incessant repetition of a throwback guitar riff. This juxtaposition of present angst with smooth, consonant guitarwork creates a “sweet and sour” nature that makes the song irresistible. “Love Dog” travels in the opposite direction, using electronic tones reminiscent of Radiohead’s “Kid A” (the song, not the album), to add depth to Adebimpe’s pensive ballad. The result, wrapped up in tight percussion and highlighted by melancholy string tones, is both gripping and deep. Where TV On The Radio fails is in its more ambitious songs, such as “Golden Age” and “Lover’s Day.” These tracks, while not devoid of quality moments, are marred by efforts that went beyond reasonable bounds of experimentation. In the case of “Lover’s Day,” what was already a suboptimal performance by the singer is drowned by a cacophony of brass, strings, and duets. “Golden Age” is even more tragic: a promising dance beat is quickly subsumed by an overly optimistic brass chorus. While such tracks “try too hard,” and others, such as “Stork and Owl” and “Family Tree,” don’t try enough, there is still plenty of quality music to consume. And for those yearning for classic TVOTR, “DLZ” provides a solid recap of the band’s earlier work, highlighted by a poppy yet sufficiently somber chorus. Dear Science is a substantial accomplishment for a band that was clearly trying to expand its horizons. While this effort lags and stalls at certain points, the album nonetheless contains a worthwhile set of tracks.
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