On Nine Types Of Light, TV On The Radio is no longer experimental. Over the past decade, the band has found an established sound, and the rest of the music world caught up. The result is the transformation of TV On The Radio from a startling experimental band into a pretty great groove band. Supported by an always-killer rhythm section, the band seamlessly implements synths, horns and guitars to elicit a stomping pendulum tempo that really never deviates over the course of the record. On top of this is the interplay between Kyp Malone and Tunde Adebimpe, who oscillate between sexy falsetto, cavernous bass and yelp-y singing, with little in between. It would be insulting to call it a formula, but good songwriting often is. And the songs here are good. There is nothing wrong with Nine Types Of Light. Kinda.
Nine Types Of Light is a love album. “You” is a love song. The chorus goes “You’re the only one I ever loved.” But Adebimpe used to be unable to decide whether to love, fuck or kill the people about whom he sang. There was a melancholy menace that laced every falsetto coo in subtext. It’s that conflict that made the band interesting—the overlap between despair, rage and arousal, which were often the same thing. TV On The Radio intelligently exemplified the phenomenon of testosterone misplaced in the modern world—a fractured consciousness, too self-aware to call adolescence but not comfortable enough to call maturity. Well, now the band has found maturity. TV On The Radio has become less animalistic, less apocalyptic, less conflicted—and more loving, more comfortable, more soulful. This isn’t a band that could make a werewolf sex song anymore, let alone make it sound hot.
Maturity can be frustrating. For a band that has thrived on tension for so long, there is a startling lack of it on Nine Types Of Light. The album, slightly shorter than 2008′s sleek Dear Science, feels quite longer. The melodies are still there, as is the talent—this isn’t a rush job, nor did anybody phone anything in. It’s just coming from a different place, and that’s OK. But just OK.