Saturday, October 4, 2008

"Dear Science" Pulses with Power

Two years ago next week, TV On The Radio's Return to Cookie Mountain was released to critical acclaim and fan appreciation. The album was dark and rather isolating, and it took quite a few listens to warm up to the sound - which was good, but viscous and unrelenting.

Dear Science, which leaked shortly before its release on September 23, is almost the polar opposite of Cookie Mountain - it doesn't take any warming up, arriving in front of you like a sizzling plate of fajitas.

Ridiculous food analogies aside, Dear Science just might be the best alternative rock album of the year. What we've got here is a streamlined Cookie Mountain - sounding more reminiscent of the catchy, dance-inducing 2006 single "Wolf Like Me" than "I Was A Lover," the cold, brooding opener on the same album.

The highlight of Dear Science comes in the form of a trilogy in the record's second half. "Golden Age" is a throwback to 80s dance-pop, "Family Tree" sounds like a meditative Coldplay track filtered through the generators of a power plant, and "Red Dress" is a smarmy blitzkrieg of instrumentation...instantly catchy and pulsing with excitement.

Dear Science is frighteningly immediate and impossible to escape. Whether or not it'll hold up over time is another story entirely. Cookie Mountain steadily grew over time, its haunting lyrics getting a bit more mature with each subsequent visit. Dear Science is charming, but it runs the risk of deteriorating because of its brilliantly produced pop sensibilities. It's potentially short half-life is certainly not a reason to skip out on one of the loudest and invigorating albums of the year.


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