Dear Science, TV on the Radio’s previous album, was the last physical CD I bought. That was 2008. Three years later, I accidentally second-degree murdered my laptop in my sleep. Its passing left considerable voids in me, around me. To this day I wince whenever I open Netflix, recalling how truly benign decisions (like watching the “Good Grief” episode of Arrested Development) can alter the absolute trajectory of your life (like zonking out during the “Good Grief” episode of Arrested Development and booting your laptop from the perch of your bed and awakening with a start to see this constant in your life lifeless, in an instant torn apart, wires displayed, screen gashed and damned as an eye clung by cataracts). In the aftermath, I faced a decision. The electronically purchased components of my iTunes library were salvageable, but the physically uploaded-like Dear Science, every Bob Dylan album, David Bowie album, countless others-they were lost. Those CDs may as well have been on the dark side of the moon, or in a box in a cobwebbed corner of my basement. Thousands of miles and armies of literal and metaphorical spiders lay between me and my albums and thus I had to wait to restore what I had so carefully stored. I had to make a choice: which albums can I live without, at least for now? First Answer: Not Dear Science. I repurchased and, for an instant, felt better.
Nine Types of Light, TV on the Radio’s new album, retains the core of what made their previous album so, so great. There are songs on the album that are as good as anything the band has done (Will Do, Keep Your Heart). There are songs that are as forgettable as a sneeze (“Forgotten” (ha, ha)). Highs are offset by lows, and, strangely, the lows on this album tend to be poorly rendered versions of the highs. “Repetition” and “No Future Shock” have the impact of dandelion guts against the cheek compared to the wallops of “New Cannonball Blues” and “Caffeinated Consciousness.” “You” is almost grating, with its droopy synths and autopilot lyrics and is altogether awful in all the ways that “Will Do” is perfect. But “Killer Crane,” the album’s subdued highpoint, nearly erases all the missteps, drawing together the weirdness and hearts-the-size-of-planets romanticism and gravity that makes this band wonderful and if another laptop falls by my hand I’ll think of these moments of greatness more than the album itself.
In Closing But Not Covered: Until My Morning Jacket’s Circuital is released, Nine Types of Light is the frontrunner for both worst album title and album artwork of the year.
Strawberry Verdict: 3.5 Strawberries out 5 Strawberries