I have to admit, I feel like a bit of a phony writing about music. I don’t know how to play any instruments, I am a hopelessly tone-deaf singer, and what little exposure I’ve had to musical theory has left me passed out on the floor with blood dripping from my ears. Furthermore, my knowledge of the music “scene” is woefully pathetic, so much so that I’m not even sure if “scene” is actually any sort of proper terminology, or if it’s just something I’ve imagined. I don’t regularly read any music publications or websites, and mostly I just alternate between listening to whatever music I currently own, the local classic/hard rock radio station, the local alt-rock radio station, and, when I’m feeling adventurous, Pandora. In short, I am the definition of a layman. As a layman, I don’t often find myself exposed to totally awesome musical acts that others have known about for embarrassingly long periods of time until much later than excusable.
One of those groups is TV on the Radio. Though they’d apparently been around since 2002, I had never even heard of them until last year when they appeared on The Colbert Report. Their appearance was divided up into two segments: first an interview with Colbert, and then, after a commercial break, a performance. The interview was almost quaint, three normal looking guys sitting across from Stephen Colbert, all three of them seemingly overwhelmed by the experience. Colbert, as usual, poked and prodded them with his put-on buffoonery, and the three of them, band members Tunde Adebimpe, Kyp Malone, and David Andrew Sitek, all sort of chuckled along sheepishly. They came off so meek and mild, it was almost like Clark Kent had managed to clone himself a couple times, and then decided to form a band with his unassuming doppelgangers. The segment was mildly amusing (but then, anything involving Stephen Colbert is, at minimum, mildly amusing), but under normal circumstances, would have been completely forgettable. The show went to commercial, and when it came back for the performance, it was like someone flipped TV on the Radio’s “on” switch, because the band just simply exploded.
For the entire existence of the Colbert Report’s website, this is the only time I have looked up videos, only to find that they have been taken down, which is a crime, because the transformation these guys go through is something that everyone should get to see for themselves. TV on the Radio performed their song “Dancing Choose,” a fantastic combination of frenetic, high-paced rapping contrasting rapidly into a melodic chorus, which through an exponential increase of excellent instrumentation ramps up in energy and excitement each time it is revisited. One minute ago, I had seen these guys awkwardly attempting to keep up with Stephen Colbert, and now they were just tearing the house down; Clark Kent had thrown aside his tie, torn off his dress shirt, and revealed the Superman underneath. Suddenly, I was watching these guys do what they love to do, and I could just feel the passion and energy in their music.
And that’s what I love about TV on the Radio’s 2008 album Dear Science—how I can really feel the passion to their music. I truly admire an artist who seems completely dedicated to their art form, and furthermore, doesn’t seem content to just pigeonhole themselves into one style, or in the case of a musician, one “sound.” None of the other tracks on Dear Science reach the level of sheer kinetic intensity of “Dancing Choose,” but they all manage to satisfy in one way or another. On Dear Science, TV on the Radio show a level of artistry, and willingness to expand within their art form that’s refreshing, and that they’re just so damn good at it, is what makes it worth listening to.
So if you’re a layman like me, and have never heard of TV on the Radio before: give it a listen. I bet you’ll like it.