The fourth of November cannot come fast enough for TV on the Radio frontman Tunde Adebimpe. “This is beginning to feel like the long-winded blues of the never,” Adebimpe wails near the end of his Brooklyn band’s superb third album, his voice warped by rage and disbelief. He can’t wrap his mind around the fact that we’re still knee-deep in the cultural, economic, and geopolitical chaos that TVOTR reflected so vividly on their 2006 breakthrough, Return to Cookie Mountain. As the space-age soul rock rumbles and buzzes around Adebimpe’s voice, we can hear the question burning in his breast: How long must we sing this song?
There’s no shortage of preapocalyptic dread — nor any shortage of blues — on Dear Science, produced, as usual, by the band’s resident sound sculptor,Dave Sitek. “I know your reason is stalled and your freedoms dissolved,” Adebimpe acknowledges in “Shout Me Out,” a drum-machine shuffle drenched in haunted-house reverb. On the furious disco-punk jam “Red Dress,” featuring the horn section from Antibalas, guitarist-singer Kyp Malone admits, “I’m scared to death that I’m livin’ a life not worth dying for.”
Listen to Dear Science:
Yet the album also reveals a tentative embrace of hope by the weightiest rock band in New York — evidence that they might see Election Day as the beginning of something new. “There’s a golden age comin’ round,” Malone announces over chattering Thriller-gone-Afrobeat guitars in “Golden Age,” “Give it up ‘stead of grabbin’ for decay.” In “Crying,” Malone hears “music for tanks with no red lights in sight,” but then declares that it’s “time to take the wheel and the road from the masters.” Adebimpe provides a visual image in “Dancing Choose” that perfectly represents this album’s guarded optimism: “In my mind, I’m breeding butterflies.”
Throughout Dear Science, TV on the Radio — which includes the rhythm section of bassist Gerard Smith and drummer Jaleel Bunton — flesh out Adebimpe’s andMalone’s ruminations with relentlessly inventive arrangements that make even familiar sentiments seem fresh. If you thought Cookie Mountain was hard to categorize, good luck this time: Opener “Halfway Home” layers Ramones-style bop-bop-bops over industrial-shoegaze guitars; “Stork & Owl” outfits a slo-mo R&B groove with strings borrowed from Enya; “Family Tree,” the album’s prettiest cut, is a future-folk ballad in which Adebimpe proposes to his lover through an open window in the middle of the night.
Dear Science goes out with a bang — literally. “I hunger for you like a cannibal,” Adebimpe moans in “Lover’s Day,” while a marching-band beat accelerates. “Ball so hard we’ll smash the walls / Break the bed, and crash the floors.” He’s talking about sex as a means of liberation from despair, but he’s willing to entertain any ideas you might have, as well. Is it too late to get these guys on the ticket?