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If Prince grew up in a Brooklyn loft, formed a band, dove into post-rock, bought a bunch of weird music gear, and got involved in the hip New York art game, he might have sounded something like TV on the Radio's masterful major label debut, Return to Cookie Mountain. Following the trajectory that was established with 2003's Young Liars and 2004's Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes, the band hasn't done anything incredibly different; they are just doing it that much better. And the clincher here is that no one else even tries to do it. Cookie Mountain is so good that it appears to be a vision fully-realized for TV on the Radio. They still have that rock-meets-barber-shop-on-acid vibe, but the full-band feeling and strange sounds that float through the air make this an album worthy of the praise it is already receiving.
Even more than their previous efforts, Cookie Mountain is shrouded in shadows. Although the beats are often worthy of an industrial dance party, the messages are hidden, dark, never easy to make out. And this goes for the lyrical content as well as the heavily processed, often difficult to determine musical arrangements as well. There are vague messages; some seem political, others perhaps romantic. It's hard to tell, and that's the point. Everything is open for interpretation. They refuse to make it easy; you actually have to use your brain for this one.
The relationship between producer, guitarist, and mastermind David Sitek and singer Tunde Adebimpe is a new type of dynamic duo. Far removed from the sexual overload of Plant and Page or Mick and Keith, Sitek and Tunde are way too art to just get up and rock, but they are still far more than the sum of their parts. And that voice. TV on the Radio would be nothing more than just another cool band with lots of great ideas if it were not for Tunde's soaring, searching, damn-near perfect voice. Together with the rest of the very able band (let's not forget guitarist/vocalist Kyp Malone or the sturdy rhythm section of Jaleel Bunton and Gerard Smith), TV on the Radio is one of the most unique and compelling bands around. And if all this isn't enough, David Bowie makes a cameo. And we all know Ziggy is King of Cool, so go get your copy of Return To Cookie Mountain now!
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