You should be able to tell if you’ll enjoy TV On The Radio’s fourth album Nine Types Of Light based on your response to the romantic, slightly cheesy aesthetic of the band’s “Will Do” video. You know, a shirtless Tunde Adebimpe with his shirtless lady enacting rituals from an erotic massage DVD. This really is an album for rose petals on the floor, pre-middle-aged men rediscovering their groove: Replace the “Dancing Choose” with some scented pillows and candles.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s interesting to remember when TVOTR first popped up in NYC in the early 2000s — there was a punk urgency and energy that’s gone elsewhere at this point. The guys still have a pulse, but it’s beating to the new age tempo of P.M. Dawn. Even on the more upbeat, chant-y closer “Caffeinated Consciousness,” a song title that sounds like the name of a progressive coffee shop in Vermont, we get this kind of air-freshened softness. You had that vibe surfacing in the past, especially for moments of Dear Science, but never has it been so sustained. It replaces Dear Science’s darkness with unmitigated joy. Remember the way something like “Family Tree” lulled while it broke your heart and, with its gallows references, sorta horrified? None of that here.
If you can follow the band into this smoother, more calmly seductive realm, you should be satisfied. The production’s great. The songs memorable. Opener “Second Song” has a falsetto-soul upswing and soft horns, one of those patented TVOTR hooks you’re bound to like. On the other hand, “Keep Your Heart” and “You,” both pretty and extremely understated, also find a way of slowly working themselves into your head. (Plus, as the world literally does fall apart, it’s sorta nice hearing someone croon: “I’m gonna keep your heart / If the world falls apart.”) Oddly enough, when they pick things up for the blustering rocker “No Future Shock” or mid-tempo “New Cannonball Run,” you might almost look forward to the slower-build jams like “Killer Krane” and “Forgotten.” It just feels more appropriate at this point.
All to say: A decade on, TV On The Radio are aging, sure, but gracefully; whether or not you like Nine Types Of Light depends largely on where you stand re: lite tantra rock. (And if you and your partner own matching monogrammed bathrobes.)
Nine Types Of Light is out 4/12 via Interscope. You can stream it at Rhapsody.