TVOTR's last album, Return To Cookie Mountain, quickly became an all time favourite for BlackPlastic. The combination of occasional falsetto vocals, Prince style production and Pixies aggression combined to create something beautiful and at the same time cutting edge. It has been noted elsewhere that the change from the original demo of the album to the finished product saw the order of the tracks rearranged and as a result the final prpduct was no longer opened by the thrashing 'Wolf Like Me'. Instead that duty was given to the brooding 'I Was A Lover'. It was a wise decision that in one step re-focused the album into something more considered, honest and passionate. Despite the fact that 'Wolf Like Me' is without doubt an album highlight it is debatable whether the album would stand-up as the classic it is now regarded as had that change not happened.
So onto Dear Science, TVOTR are back and they are clearly more ambitious as ever. From the opening fuzz and "ba, ba, ba ba ba" vocal through to the overtly sexual album closer, 'Lovers Day', Dear Science is a grown-up and complex record.
There are moments of tenderness, even if they are somewhat doomed, in the form of the synth backed 'Crying' and the ballad (yes, ballad), that everyone is already talking about, 'Family Tree'. Yet there are also times of aggression, whether it is directed internally or externally or, quite possibly in the case of 'DLZ', both.
Dear Science also features a constant struggle between positivity and angst. Lead single 'Golden Age' tries to paint a picture of a utopia just around the corner yet it is difficult to tell whether it is optimism or delusion that is driving singer Tunde Adebimpe's vocals. Similarly 'Dancing Choose' is certainly upbeat and could be considered positive, if only purely in a self-serving way that recalls the principles of survival of the fittest.
So Dear Science is the perfect soundtrack to our post-millenial times. Times that see extreme weather and financial patterns that appear to simultaneously signify an end but also a new start at the same time. This is an album that pulls in multiple directions, then, yet it still makes sense as a whole.
In terms of sound this is clearly a band at the top of their game and to say David Sitek's production continues to impress would be a gross understatement. In all honesty BlackPlastic misses some of the additional electronic touches and hip-hop influences of Return To Cookie Mountain yet it is hard to argue that this is anything but great and for those first discovering the band Dear Science easily stands out as a career highlight. It says much of Return To Cookie Mountain that it continues to remain one of BlackPlastic's most-played albums despite the fact that the follow up is now here. Many are already proclaiming TV On The Radio as the new Radiohead, if only in terms of scale and ambition rather than sound. Upon hearing the sheer number of ideas packed into the space of an hour for Dear Science it is impossible to disagree.