TV On The Radio released a new album today (Monday). I saw them last night (Sunday) at the 9:30 Club, and it was excellent. But let me back up.
I’ve seen TV On The Radio 3 times by my count (as if any other count matters) – once in Boston, once in San Francisco, and now in DC. The Boston show was excellent, but the San Francisco show in 2011 struck me as rather sad. Well, of course it did – the bassist passed away from lung cancer about 20 days before the show, and I couldn’t imagine trying to entertain the SF yuppie crowd after going through THAT. But let me back up.
Sophomore year in high school, some kid gave me Hum’s Downward is Heavenward. This album remains one of my favorite albums of all time, a space-rock epic in which the songs all sound like the future instead of a collection of easily decipherable instruments played in a studio or a garage or whatever. Radiohead then dropped OK Computer and everyone understood that sentence I just wrote. Textures, other-worldly sounds – a huge departure from The Blue Album or The Colour and The Shape.
Fast-forward a couple more years and Zach lightly recommends an LP (not quite an album, but longer than an EP, ugh remember all these terms?) from some band called TV On The Radio. I ignored his recommendation at my own peril. Then 2006 rolls around and Return to Cookie Mountain and all that spaced out future-rock is back, except with a tighter connection to the realities of the human condition.
So, TVoTR was making all this excellent other-worldly beautiful music full of textures and significantly lacking obvious guitar parts, and then their world exploded in April 2011.
And then today their new album comes out, and last night at the 9:30 Club they started their all-around excellent set with … “Young Liars”, track 4 of their 2003 EP that was released before Return To Cookie Mountain, before their first album Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, before all of it. And then they ripped into the rest of the set. And then it was fucking amazing.
Let me be clear – I’ve been listening to Seeds on repeat for the last week straight and I am far from tired of it. It is an excellent album from a band that just keeps making excellent albums, full of songs that don’t sound like prototypical songs but are at the same time so very dance-pop. TV On The Radio went away for a few years, for which no one could blame them, and they came back with a fucking epic. And instead of immediately demanding that the DC crowd humor these new songs, they went back to the beginning.
And then they built it all back up right in front of us.
And it was awesome.
Life is what it is – it’s hard but easy, and challenges come up all the time. Sadness fits me like a glove, and so it seems difficult to step past challenges – it is easy to call life hard in a way. Seeing this excellent band come back to form by doing exactly the easy thing in front of them – make a fuckin’ record, make the best goddamn version of the music they already have made – when sadness was easier, when saying the very easiest, most natural thing for this band to do may have been too hard – and then to take this amazing thing they made and remember that it wasn’t some sort of standalone accomplishment but fits naturally within all their accomplishments – well, well-played, TV On The Radio. Well fuckin’ played.
Basically, sometimes shit seems hard. It seems really fuckin’ impossible. But then you see a real good show by this real good band that somehow remained really good through some actual difficulties, and you realize that maybe, just maybe you are making shit harder than it needs to be. Those things you thought were easy actually took more effort than just, you know, enjoying life.
And then you just have to hope it isn’t too late, and maybe you can build it all back up right in front of us. Because, shit, that’s what you’ve been doing this whole time.