Where Brooklyn At?

TV On the Radio
Dear Science
Touch And Go Records
Available Now

Dear Science, Thank You.

With their latest release, Dear Science, TV On the Radio has solidified themselves in the hearts and minds of music fans.  I would have added the word "everywhere" to the end of that sentence, but well, let's not get ahead of ourselves.  This record is interesting, dynamic, and fun.  Basically, everything that of Montreal's Skeletal Lamping wasn't, so for that, I can applaud them.  For all that Dear Science lacks in unnecessary flamboyancy though, it makes up for in musical sensibility, and awareness.  Unlike many other acts that get by on the shock and awe tactic of "hey, if you thought that was wacky, just wait until you here this", TV On the Radio is well-versed in its limitations, and is not afraid to stay within them while still producing a new and original sound.

To start, "Halfway Home" is a stellar opener.  It, as is the case with the beginning of most records I've reviewed recently, sets you up for what's to come.  It's a prelude, a sampling of the intelligent and psychadelic noise to follow.  What also seems to amaze me is how soon you can travel from the beginning to the first single, "Golden Age", which is the fifth song on the album.  Though, according to Itunes, not the most popular song, this one, especially accompanied with video, seems to really display the full range of talents this Brooklyn-based group possesses.  From pop sensibilities, to funk, to indie rock, it jumps around genres better than anything I've heard in quite awhile.  See "Family Tree"- a dead-ringer for a Coldplay song- as evidence.

For the remainder of the record, expect more of the same.  Once lead singer Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone finish up the aforementioned lost track from Viva La Vida Or Death and All His Friends, you literally bounce into what sounds like a mix of Gnarls Barkley, Jamiroquai, and Portugal. The Man, among others, in "Red Dress".  On a personal note, I could have seen these guys here at Syracuse University about two years ago, but did not feel like wasting money on lead act, Rhianna, at the time.  I'm sure you can all understand why that is.

So, to recap: Dear Science sounds like Gnarls Barkley, of Montreal, Jamiroquai, Portugal. The Man, Radiohead, Coldplay, Wolf Parade, and countless others.  It's a spectacular trip through genre-bending riffs, soaring vocals, and a ton of get-up-and-dance beats.  It's possibly the most entertaining album of the year after Girl Talk's Feed the Animals (note that most entertaining does not necessarily denote best).  As I'm listening to it again right now, I'm hearing Lenny Kravitz, Foo Fighters, and some of The Roots on "Shout Me Out".  Besides setting a record for most references to other bands in one post, this record has tripped its way to my best of 2008 list.  For those looking for specific tunes, over the album as a whole, please see the previously-discussed "Golden Age" and "Family Tree", as well as "Lover's Day".

Rating: 8/10; Great for parties, sing-alongs, or just plain relaxing.  I'm still impressed by the varying dynamics of this record.

Lovers Day - TV On The Radio


Pre-Screening: Kings of Leon

Kings of Leon
Only By The Night
RCA Records
Out: September 23rd

I'll preface this review with a slightly unrelated note: I will not write up anything about the new of Montreal album, Skeletal Lamping, because of how much I hate it. With that in mind, I'm talking about a much better album than that in Only By The Night by Kings of Leon today.

To start, the album sounds like 80s hair metal, but better. The mood, the lyrics, everything just screams "if they were really that good at making music 25 years ago, they probably would have done this". Could the superior new sound be attributed to the painkillers that frontman Caleb Followill has been dabbling in as of late? If you ask him, he'll give emphatic 'yes', I'm sure, as he has claimed recently that the pills have allowed him to write the "best songs of his career." I wouldn't be too concerned about that...yet.

So what about the songs? Well, to start, "Closer" is a great opener. It really sets up the southern-influenced rock you're going to be experiencing over the ensuing 40 minutes, and puts you in the proper mindset for the album, which, though not relaxed necessarily, is an easy listen. This aesthetic holds on "Crawl", before the record truly opens up with the first single- "Sex On Fire". The track shouts the spirit of the album, a certain aspect of the nightlife which many would not embrace in song. The tune's catchy, energetic and simple chorus, "And you- your sex is on fire. And so- were the words to transpire," grab you right in with a great pop riff to back it up.

The album does not have a bad track, so stay tuned for #4, "Use Somebody" through #6, "17," and beyond. The entire middle series is the real meat of this one, and where you'll find the best material, if you're one of those people who'd much rather listen to bits and pieces of a record than the entire compilation in its intended form. The rest of the record really sends home the theme, and spirit of Only By The Night, with standout "Be Somebody" doing a pretty solid Richard Marx at times, but with no ill effects. The final track, "Cold Desert," presents the lasting argument, and perhaps refrain from the nightlife theme. A much calmer song than the others, it almost looks back upon the life lived in the previous nine tracks through the eyes of someone wiser, more learned from their experiences. The questions of self-doubt are apparent in this one, as is some degree of weariness with lines like, "I'm too young to feel this old." Still, this one finishes very well.

Like I've said- though I don't condone not listening to full albums, I will, as always, give a shout to the tracks that I felt stood above the others. For those interested; "Sex on Fire", "Use Somebody", and "Manhattan" are your best bets. For anyone who enjoys Kings of Leon's previous work, the aforementioned Marx, or an edgier version of The Strokes, this could be your album of the year, or at least something that'll warrant a couple spins around the ol' Itunes.

Rating: 8/10; Solid start to finish. What more can you ask for?

Sex On Fire - Kings of Leon


If You're the "Greatest Band in the World", Why Not?

Now, for the first time in this space, I'm writing an article directly calling out a couple of artists, because I think they're just sour grapes, personally, and I can't let them get a free pass on this unnecessary and uneducated criticism of a band that is phenomenally better, and (in every case but one- i.e. Gene Simmons) more successful.

As per Stereogum yesterday, Oasis is complaining about Radiohead.  Also cited in the same article, there's jealousy abound in the music industry over the past year- see The Hold Steady, Silver Jews, plus Lily Allen, Gene Simmons, and OASIS AGAIN.  I do, of course, support the freedom of speech, so these artists have the right to criticize Radiohead, as I have a right to criticize them for saying anything.  The problem is how unabashedly self-centered most of them come off in their interviews.  With that in mind, I'll be going around the horn with these folks, to pick apart their arguments.

Oasis (take 1 & 2): Starting with the most recent blast of Radiohead, why do you care so much about what they're doing?  Radiohead, and MANY other bands are trying to use their status as icons to promote some sort of change about the world.  Though I usually don't agree with people using celebrity status to promote politics, it is your right to do so.  With an argument like "They (fans) paid for my swimming pool.  I'm not fucking challenging anybody," you've just made a pretty concrete statement as to why you formed your band.  Money.  News to Oasis, some people are still in music for the love of making music.  Yes, everyone does enjoy money, and I'm sure Radiohead would be included in that, but don't get angry because they've got more of it than you do.  On top of all that, Liam Gallagher, Oasis' frontman declared that the band's next album will be given away for free "over his dead body" back in November.  Point made?  I think so.

The Hold Steady: We've complimented the band in this space, so remember, this is in no way a reflection upon what we think of them as artists.  But seriously, who cares what you have to say, Tad Kubler (THS' guitarist)?  He claims that "I don't get it anymore".  Isn't that the beauty of Radiohead, that if you're expecting more of the same, it won't happen?  I think so, and many would agree.  He continues, "I like them as a rock band, all the buttons and sequencing and stuff like that I really don't care for.  I'm a fan of rock music and what they're doing now I don't think is very good."  Improper sentence structure aside, Kubler proves to us in this statement that he is, in fact, a huge fan of The Bends and Pablo Honey,  and is just sharing his misguided take on them as a band, rather than the genius way in which they do business.  He further adds to the punishment in this space by finishing out this interview proclaiming his love for Oasis and calling their work "ernest" and "honest".  As you can see in the space above this, can't say I agree with you there, Tad.

Silver Jews: David Berman says the least, but has the most damaging words about the new album.  He sums up the record with "...things are miserable, don't try, things suck.  And it's all gray.  There's nothing there."  Tell the millions upon millions who bought that album that there's nothing there.  And, to be honest, I find it difficult to find a point on In Rainbows in which what he says holds true.  He closes with this statement, the inspiration for the title of this article, and part of the reason why his argument fails: "Never before has the greatest band ever had so little to say about anything."  Obviously you weren't listening, Dave.  Plus, points off for you, for hating on the obscurity and inaccessibility of much of what Radiohead says.  Once again, that's part of it, so you fail.

Lily Allen: Ms. Allen calls Radiohead "arrogant" and says, "they've devalued recorded music."  What the hell do you mean by the second part, to start?  Value is not just something monetary, except to you and the rest of the artists being lambasted here, who only see it as such.  I value all of the music I own, regardless of whether it was a purchased CD, or a song passed over from a friend.  When I've made music at various points in the past, the value in it to me as an artist was in the fact that SOMEONE, ANYONE wanted to hear it.  Allen continues her misguided, juvenile rant with "...they've got millions of pounds.  It sends a weird message to younger bands who haven't done as well."  Nail in the coffin, as far as trying to portray herself as NOT about money alone.  The fact that younger bands are so concerned about how much cash is in their pockets is precisely the problem with the current music scene.  The best artists today are the ones that fail to aggressively pursue large contracts, large concerts, and mainstream sounds.  You can make money (see- Radiohead), but it's more respectable if you don't announce to everyone it's the reason you're in the business.

Gene Simmons: Simmons gets off talking about KISS box sets that only 40- and 50-somethings will be buying.  Then proceeds to talk about suing every freckle-faced teen off the earth.  News to Gene: they're not buying your music anyway, so you probably shouldn't be this angry about illegal downloading.  Your overpriced tour, cliche t-shirts, and other ridiculous memorabilia will be enough to sustain you, I'm sure.  He finally gets to Radiohead, claiming (of the "Radiohead business model", "...And that's not a business model that works.  I open a store and say 'come on in, pay whatever you want.' Are you on fucking crack?"  Yes Gene, it would appear that Thom is, in fact on crack, as are the millions who acquired the record, and the band did make a profit off of the album- about $5 per digital download.  This number doesn't seem all that bad, when you consider the number is probably far lower for most albums when illegal downloads are taken into consideration.  The band also released a physical copy, which, by the way, was at the top of the Billboard charts for months.  Gene, sorry, but you, like all of these money grubbers, fail.

What have we learned here?  Radiohead's probably smarter than everybody in the music industry thinks.  These people have no clue what they're talking about.  And to top it all off- many of the artists today are out just to make money.  Great.