For TV on the Radio, video did not kill the radio star. Somehow they managed to fuse the two together. Sculptors of sound, painters of vibrations, directors of noise — call them what you like, but TV on the Radio strangely weaves images into music. With the eclectic sounds of saxophones, doo-wop and random Spanish speaking, TV on the Radio crafts each song as if it were its own pulsating kaleidoscope.
This may not come as a surprise, since all the members of the band are involved with the visual arts. Lead vocalist, Tunde Adebimpe — who attended NYU’s film school — used his skills to direct the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Pin” video, while his bandmates are painters. In fact, he explains, “Whenever I write a song, I see a distinct image in my head.”
However, the landscapes constructed by TV on the Radio are a far cry from the soothing images of Monet’s Water Lilies. Rather, they expose the dirt and grit of city life. The ever-present static and repetitive beats leave the listener confused. Adebimpe points out, “the inspirations for the album I would say were pretty much anxiety and the desire to make it go away.”
Right from the beginning of their debut album Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes, the saxophone belts out a fragmented melody and fuses into an almost painfully repetitive static beat with Adebimpe’s shaky voice. The album goes on to layer space-age synthesizers on top of sirens, organs on top of soulful vocals and fuzz bass on top of dance beats.
When shaping each song, Adebimpe says, “We would improvise for like three or four hours and then take like two minutes of something and think it was a good basis for a song and work on that. As a result, you get something a little more chopped up and angular than it would be if you just sat down to write a song normally.” Regardless of the weight of Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes, TV on the Radio is making the kids dance, and it’s about damn time. Attending one of their concerts is more like an orgy than a deep intellectual experience. Instead of sitting back with a feigned look of deep inner reflection, the rockers are flailing their arms about and jittering their bodies like there’s no tomorrow.
Most of this urge to dance to contagious songs like “Staring at the Sun” and “King Eternal,” stems from what the band was listening to. “When we were finishing the album and mixing it, we got the Outkast album.”
TV on the Radio will be heading to the studio in March. Their new record will hit somtime in May of 2005. Until then, keep cutting it up, all you jive turkeys.
See TV on the Radio live at the Starlight Ballroom (450 North 9th St.) on Oct. 14. $14. 7:30 p.m.