‘I was listening to TV on the Radio back when the audience was just me and Bowie.’ Thus my housemate’s indignant riposte to whether the New York group’s more arty tendencies were to his liking.
True, some of the band’s previous offerings are an acquired taste but with Dear Science they have created an album that, though sacrificing none of the ingenuity of previous releases, is accessible enough that you don’t have to be an emaciated, eternally-reincarnated androgyne, or my housemate, to enjoy it.
The difference is immediately apparent on the album’s first single, ‘Golden Age’. In place of ‘Wolf Like Me’, the driving, feral anthem of 2006’s Return to Cookie Mountain, is a vibrant and joyous melody.
David Sitek’s production departs dramatically from prior recordings; gone is the dense, dirty sound of old – clean and sharp is in. This contrast enhances the spartan, vocal-led verse and the explosive chorus alike, the latter accentuated by the afrobeat horns of Antibalas.
This new abundance of instrumentation and pop sensibility does not, however, come at the expense of sacrificing the aesthetic of the early years. The same marriage of sinister and sublime lives on throughout Dear Science, particularly evident in the juxtaposition of the album’s last two tracks.
In ‘DLZ’, Tunde Adebimpe’s voice is at his most menacing and made more unsettling still when backed by Kyp Malone’s ethereal harmonising. The same vocal pairing, when transplanted into the closer ‘Lover’s Day’, produces a blissfully optimistic and unrepentantly erotic fanfare; the pair let us know that “Of course there are miracles/Lovers in love, that’s one.”
This is combined with the ecstatic instrumental assault of flute, clarinet, saxophone and more, so by the end you can’t help but agree that indeed there are miracles: Dear Science. That’s one.