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splendid > reviews > 7/21/2003
TV On the Radio
TV On the Radio
Young Liars
Touch & Go


Format Reviewed: CD

Soundclip: "Young Liars"

Buy me now
This band's name suggests a mismatch or fuzzy logic of sorts, as does the peculiar, compelling music of its first EP. Young Liars features the intriguing collision of black vocalist Tunde Adebimpe's soulful, guttural, faintly psychedelic wail and multi-instrumentalist David Andrew Sitek's cold, synthetic, industrial-hued backdrops. Adebimpe may sound almost identical to Stew from The Negro Problem, but don't expect an East Coast equivalent to those sunny Californians; TV On The Radio has a lot less Love in their sound (not to mention less Beatles, Bacharach and Brian Wilson) and more Beefheart, Eno-produced Bowie and a little bit of Sun Ra. If that sounds dangerously arty to you, it's often just as surprisingly listenable and alive.

"Satellite" opens with three chords of electronic hum and a jumpy, scratchy drum machine pattern over which Adebimpe coos ever so smoothly. Then he launches into an equally jumpy, more fluid vocal that wouldn't sound out of place on jazz record. The nearly scatted chorus ("Waiting for a signal or a sound / where can you be found now, my love"), repeated at length, fits the rhythm pattern like a glove; it all simmers to a fine coda, melding harmonious moan with the sacred (flutes) and the profane (white noise).

"Staring At The Sun" rocks sturdily without really rocking out; it drops a simple metal guitar drone in place of the usual power chords, and Adebimpe's elastic twang is positioned front and center. "Blind"'s tweaked-out, sparsely decorated blues lingers for seven minutes without overstaying its welcome, and is begging for a PJ Harvey cover (with lyrics about the "perfect girlfriend" kept intact). The title track is even better; it has an eerie, precise, intense post-apocalyptic calm, as if it were a stone cold descendant of Sly Stone circa There's A Riot Going On.

TVoTR make their most audacious move on the unlisted bonus track, a nearly unrecognizable doo-wop cover of The Pixies' "Mister Grieves". Recorded a capella with what sounds like an overdubbed quartet of Adebimpes (plus handclaps, finger snaps and some whistling), it slows the original's spastic pace to a gorgeous slide and could easily have been recorded in a Harlem high school bathroom. The mere idea of doing this to a Pixies song seems sacrilegious and thoroughly deranged, but the result is so cool that I can only imagine what kinds of happy accidents the outfit will come up with on their eventual full-length.



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