Anyone who has ever seen The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly knows how powerful the climactic final scene is - that three-way standoff between Blondie, Tuco, and Angel Eyes. On the screen, you only see the eyes of each gunman as they are seconds away from drawing their pistols - the camera pans increasingly faster from man to man's eyes. You see their eyes wincing from the scorching desert sun, the sweat beading down their brows, and the cocksure look in each of their eyes. You feel the tension and momentum building inside yourself. You know why? Ennio Morricone. The camera shots wouldn't be half as powerful without Morricone's immortal score. The fluttering Spanish guitar arpeggios, the descending piano lines, the muted trumpet, and those soaring strings - he is master of build and release. Even without the film in front of you, you can listen to his compositions and be moved and enthralled. The best part of this work is the climax: that epic, dam-busting trumpet solo and the sawing string section. Christ, the only other time I've heard such triumphant, heart-thumping trumpet playing was by Miles Davis on Bitches Brew. Everytime I hear this song or any of Morricone's other spaghetti western scores, I want to start a tex-mex, southwestern, orchestral, desert-rock sort-of band.
Apparently, that is the title of the forthcoming TV On The Radio album. Yeah, Return To Cookie Mountain. Fortunately, that title is NOT indicative of the quality of the album's lyrics. This is the album I knew TVOTR had the potential to make: a front-to-back masterpiece that captures the energy and majesty of their live show. Not to mention Tunde Adebimpe's voice (always the band's ace up the sleeve) hasn't sounded this awe-inspiring since the Young Liars EP. This is a definite "album-of-the-year" contender my friends. If Radiohead and Arcade Fire weren't supposed to have new albums out this year, I would go ahead and make the declaration now. Here is a track-by-track breakdown of the album.
1) Wolf Like Me - The opening track is a dense, chugging motorik gem that wouldn't have sounded out of place on the second side of Neu! 75. The entire band is in blazing, full-attack mode with Tunde's guiding light vocals splitting through the dark: "my mind is changed/my body's free/by God, I like it/my heart's aflame/by God, I like it."
2) I Was A Lover - This track finds the band experimenting with mercurial samples much like My Bloody Valentine's "Touched." At first, the songs seems to trip over its own ambitions, but quickly reveals itself to be a case of "rewards the listener after repeated spins."
3) Province - This song starts with an infectious, bouncy melody and "whoo-whoo" vocals reminiscent of Prince's "Starfish and Coffee." Then the chorus shoots skyward with the refrain "Hold your heart courageously as we walk into this dark place/Stand steadfast beside me and see that love is the province of the brave." You might notice a familiar voice singing back-up with Tunde during the chorus - a certain apocalyptic alien rock star. Yeah, the rumor is that it's avowed-TVOTR fan David Bowie.
4) Hours - This song begins unhurried and with minimal instrumentation - marching drums driving the song much like Bjork's "Hunter." Eventually, the song introduces layers of reverbed organ and diaphanous guitar that remind me of Radiohead's "Subterranean Homesick Alien."
5) Playhouses - The frenzied, jungle drumming on this track makes it a bit of a spotlight for drummer Jaleel Bunton. The dark, driving rhythm harkens back to the first track "Wolf Like Me." Yet another killer performance.
6) Let The Devil In - Opening with stomping drums and handclaps, the sing soon splits open with sawing guitars, louder drumming, and multiple band-members sing-shouting the lyrics in unison. It's definitely a song that grows on you with repeated listens. Reminiscent of Brian Eno's "Here Comes the Warm Jets."
7) Dirty Whirl Wind - Simultaneously bringing to mind Motown and The Beach Boys'Pet Sounds with its swinging groove and sleigh-bell percussion, this song will just slay you. It also features one of Tunde's best vocal performances to date. I played this song on repeat about 4 or 5 times after I first heard it.
8) Tonight - This atmospheric track begins with wind chimes and ambient sounds anchoring a beautiful vocal melody. This is the song most like Desperate Youth's "Ambulance" - all voice, atmosphere, and minimal instrumentation.
9) A Method - Maintaining the mood and sound of the previous track, "A Method" features multi-tracked vocals singing gorgeous a cappella until the slapping percussion and whirring tape loops kick in mid-song and the multiple voices continue to do that amazing barbershop thing that they do.
10) Blues From Down Here - This just throbs and grooves insistently like a great lost New Order track. It's a top-notch electro-dance type song adorned with some tasteful saxophone at the end.
11) Wash The Day Away - This concluding song is buried in dense, fuzzed-out production that recalls My Bloody Valentine again. The song soldiers on for 6 minutes as new instrumentation (muted flute and saxophone) is layered in with the crashing drums, guitar, and bass.
There is no release date for this record yet, but, I strongly urge you to buy it whenever it comes out.
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