Return to Cookie Mountain was a very powerful release in 2006, and continues to be a very important album for fans of art-rock. The strange combination of rock, gospel and electronic music was able to transcend each genre thanks to a one-of-a-kind production and superior songwriting skills. Needless to say, Dear Science had much to live up to. And somehow, it did.
Yet again, the production is the first thing to discuss with TV on the Radio. Band member David Sitek creates a true feel to the album that is unlike anything you’ve ever heard – even past TV on the Radio releases. Yet this time, we find a more accessible version of this sound. While there is still a great deal of distortion and induced claustrophobia from Sitek’s work, these all fall back slightly in the mix. What results is a very clear vision that is accented by the grit. But Dear Science does not merely deal in simple access. As the album is replayed (almost a requirement for this band), new details emerge, particular bits of sound that weren’t clear originally. The more familiar you become with each song, the more that TV on the Radio will reveal.
But good production alone does not make a great album. It is the previously mentioned “vision” that makes Dear Science such a noteworthy release. Each song seems to be displaying the balance between the world and the individual. While this would be a tall task for any band to accomplish, TV on the Radio seems to meet that end. The very range of topics through the album lends greatly to this vision. On “Crying,” the band speaks of “the wrath, and the riots, and the races on fire.” This powerful line speaks volumes about the world around us, the politics of fear and racism. Yet in this same track, the discussion goes to the “blood on the cradle,” leading to an understanding of personal anguish.
No clearer is this stunning division than in the amazing “Golden Age.” Initially, there is talk of violence and exclamations of “Oh Lord” or “mercy me.” But then in a glorious chorus full of strings, horns and perfect rhythm, the band sings in unison that “there’s a golden age comin’ round!” No sooner has this ended than we hear word of natural disaster, and that it’s “blowin’ up like a ghetto disaster.” The Katrina implications are evident for but a moment until the glory and hope of the chorus enters again.
Perhaps it is this disparity that most reflects the modern society. We continue to grasp to the American Dream as our world falls apart around us. TV on the Radio understands this and displays it beautifully for individual reflection. Dear Science will probably have the longest lifespan of any album released this year.