Utterly foreign: Adebimpe's other-world sound
TV on the Radio: Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes
There are some albums that just breathe cool; you can almost sense them releasing it from the depths of the vinyl/plastic grooves, feel it taking up the spaces between molecules of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Exile on Main St. Marquee Moon. Surfer Rosa (the latter two are by Television and the Pixies, respectively [for those of you who are not cool]).
TV on the Radio's debut release, Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes (Touch & Go 2004), is unquestionably in the realm of absolute zero, sitting down there with the frozen luminaries before it in the meat locker of pop.
Through chance, fate, or the whims of the wind driving me into the record store, I stumbled upon TV on the Radio's debut EP, Young Liars (Touch & Go 2003), shortly after its release. It did not sound like anything else currently in my music collection (or really anything else I've ever heard).
The most striking sound in the band's arsenal is singer Tunde Adebimpe– who through genetic majesty has ended up with a voice like some strange combination of Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, and Thom Yorke, but stronger (and yes much cooler) than any of them.
The next element that strikes the ear is the group's sparseness of sound– minimalistic drum loops, distorted bass, and guitar that makes its ghostly presence known intermittently– this isn't your father's guitar rock; it's something akin to a lullaby from purgatory.
Metaphorically speaking, night sweats and jumbled dreams filled the months before TV on the Radio's debut album made its way into my waiting hands, but Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes arrived on the 9th, and I finally got to hear the culmination of the promise made by Young Liars.
Taking only one song from the EP, "Staring at the Sun," Desperate Youth... delivers nine tracks of almost complete and utter foreignness, as if you, late at night, are suddenly listening to the top 40 station from Alpha Centauri on your walkman. And you cannot, for some reason, turn it off.
Desperate Youth... begins with "The Wrong Way," introduced with a sax riff before the band's trademark distorted bass-like loop takes up much of the song's spectrum– followed shortly by a simplistic drum loop.
Moderate rock tempo'ed, the song seems a rumination on Adebimpe's understanding of his world as a black man and performer, questioning icons and stereotypes in a display of lyrical poise. "Staring at the Sun" is the only track from Young Liars, and though it may be the catchiest song on the album, it is, standing among its new brothers, probably the least interesting.
From the slow-building falsetto studded "King Eternal" to the '80s synth drum driven-to-a cappella ending, "Poppy," Desperate Youth... is one fascinating experience with sound after another. At first listen you will have absolutely no idea where the next song will lead. And that is a wonderful thing.
Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes