As I listen to TV on the Radio’s fourth album, Nine Types of Light, I can’t help but to think that the Brooklyn art-rock outfit may have been misjudged all along. The arty sprawl of their Bowie-approved second album, 2006’s Return to Cookie Mountain, along with guitarist Dave Sitek’s increasing ubiquity as a producer, seemed to suggest this group had a future as the ‘00s analogue to King Crimson. However, Cookie Mountain’s 2008 follow-up, Dear Science, and especially Nine Types of Light, lead me to believe that their true destiny may be to become this decade’s INXS. And I mean that in the best way possible.
Nine Types of Light is a logical follow-up to Dear Science. The latter record tempered Cookie Mountain’s experimental tendencies with an increased emphasis on groove. Three years later, Nine Types of Light balances this danceability with something resembling calm. The record is split between nuanced, slow-burning dance tracks (“Will Do,” “No Future Shock”) and gorgeous ballads, highlighted by the stunning “Keep Your Heart.” Drummer Jaleel Bunton, who powered so much of the last two records, still brings the monster grooves on tracks like the closer “Caffeinated Consciousness,” but often it’s vocalist Tunde Adebimpe, and not Bunton, that commands attention on Nine Types of Light.
The album’s biggest strength is the way it mellows out TV on the Radio’s sound without sacrificing any of the intensity. It’ll be easy to pick Nine Types of Light apart and fault the band for not pushing themselves enough, but when the songs are as good as “Repetition” and “New Cannonball Blues,” that stuff is irrelevant.
The buildup to the release of Nine Types of Light has been somewhat understated, a stark contrast to the insane hype Dear Science received. But TV on the Radio aren’t a band that lives and dies by what the press says about them. They’re perfectly content to mellow as they mature, accolades be damned. Nine Types of Light sounds familiar, but it’s a good familiar. Whether this is the band they are now or they’re just gearing up to take a turn for the edgier again, most bands would kill to have a “comfort zone” this high.