I’ve never arrived at an adequate description of TV on the Radio’s music. Sonic Youth produced by Bill Laswell? Brian Eno covering Billy Idol? Jesus, I dunno. Last night I went to see them at 9:30 in hopes of “getting” a band whose records I find admirable if way too cold to actually love.
I get the impression TV on the Radio never considers its songs “finished”; the live versions of songs such as “Province” and “Hours” were much fleshier than on the group’s last LP, Return to Cookie Mountain. But much like listening to that album, after about four songs last night, I felt my attention wandering—-I wonder why a group that has so much going for it on paper gets so…samey so quickly.
Part of the blame for that has to lie at the the feet of guitarist Dave Sitek. The band’s producer as well, Sitek strums so fast his right hand is a blur, which, added to the ginormous bank of effects he runs his ax through, throws a wet blanket of texture over each song. It’s exhilarating at first, then it kind of hurts your ears, and after not too long it becomes wallpaper. Oppressive wallpaper, like at your grandma’s house.
But I think the biggest problem is tunes. Except for a punked-up “Snakes and Martyrs”—-seriously, it was great, which I expect will be a surprise to anyone who’s heard the version on Cookie Mountain—-I still can’t remember which melody goes with which cryptic title. I feel like this group has everything in place to make the greatest song in the world—except the song. I hope I’m still listening when they write it.