TV on the Radio, “Seeds”

tv-on-the-radio_seedsTV on the Radio
Seeds
VIRGIN/EMI
7/10 

This is TV on the Radio’s fifth album, but it may as well be their first: only nine days following 2011’s Nine Types of Light, bassist Gerard Smith died of lung cancer, and TVOTR functionally folded. The band’s hiatus was a given, probably—and a sad fact not worth dwelling upon if Seeds, five years later, didn’t sound so much like a band gnawing its fingernails down to the quick to see what sprouted anew.

Seeds is a record made by four men winnowing their crafts to their immediate cores. This means Dave Sitek’s production has never sounded so accessible, and Tunde Adebimpe’s croon so on-point, but it also means that Seeds is terribly maudlin—way too comfortable indulging in contrived couplets and big platitudes about the power and pain of love. In tune with ’80s radio pop—from Huey Lewis & The News (“Could You”) and Depeche Mode (“Careful You”) to a Ramones–Bangles hybrid (“Lazerray”)—the band seems to be siphoning that era’s magnanimity for big melodies, and even bigger emotions. So is this album yet another retro retread from a group banking on nostalgia? Maybe, but it isn’t all bad: buried beneath this weird bromide is a band crazy confident, more ready than ever to completely start over.

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