Return to Cookie Mountain

By Eric Kelsey

Perhaps what keeps TV on the Radio going despite the pressure of expectations is the fact that they’ve already “sold out.” Lead singer Tunde Adebimpe graduated from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, played the lead role in a romantic comedy and acted on Broadway. Furthermore, the band lists the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn—long since a trucker-hat hipster haven—as their headquarters.

Much like your in-class arch nemesis, TV on the Radio full-length albums are largely unlistenable. They’re choppy, caustic and dronefully boring at times. Despite their foibles, TVOR continue to be one of the most innovative and indifferent-to-success players in mainstream indie rock.

Although there was much talk about how they would respond artistically when signing with the major label Interscope, it seems as though TVOR considers the label a conduit rather than a tastemaker. Even prior to the release of their first LP, Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes, on indie legend Touch and Go, the hype machine circled clouds of doubt over how the band might follow in the wake of their very listenable and brilliant Young Liars EP.

Like fellow Williamsburg, Brooklynites the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TVOR weathered the expectations penetrating debut EPs brought them along with moves to major labels and write-ups in mainstream newspapers and magazines. Furthermore, the Current featured both Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TVOR this past year.

If there is any cultural currency to be gleaned from TVOR and YYYs, it’s their steadfast adherence to creative ideals at whatever price. The circuits that run through David Sitek’s production and Adebimpe’s voice are one of uncompromising independence. Although Adebimpe struggles mightily as a lyricist, and his earnestness does nothing to hide his shortcomings, he proves the old adage: that it’s the singer and not the song.

Adebimpe and the rest of the band is, at the very least, admirable in their sincerity, unleashing an empathy in the listener making TVOR the most beguiling of ablutions.