11 February 2009

Album Review: TV on the Radio - Live at Amoeba Music

Don't believe all the hype: TV on the Radio can play live. Because Saturday Night Live tarnished the band's image, I find it ironic that one of theCDs I chose to review the very day before was TV on the Radio, playing live no less. Live at Amoeba Music was in fact recorded on September 22, 2006, but TVOTR's band members are not so aged that they should lose all their musical prowess two years after the masterpiece that was Return to Cookie Mountain and not even half a year after Dear Science.

For what it's worth, Live at Amoeba Music is a decent live EP and enjoyable to listen to. For a band that has a meticulously created studio sound, TVOTR stands (mostly) on their own two feet. Never is this more apparent than on "Wolf Like Me" and "Province," the two middle songs. Wolf is not performed, but enacted--the ferocity of the band could not be more apparent. Tunde Adabimpe's voice falters and cracks as he croaks out the lyrics with machine gun speed, while David Andrew Sitek's sonic thunder grinds away in the background. If TVOTR were ever a rock band, they were a rock band for this song. "Province" follows up this radio worthy rendition, an equally memorable recording, even if it does lack David Bowie's backing vocals heard in the original version.Kyp Malone's falsetto and Sitek's punchy 6-strings mystifies the atmosphere , manipulating the mood to reflect the emotional intensity the tune embodies. This would be an acceptable performance for a studio record.

The bookends, "Blues from Down Here" and "Wash the Day" suffer from TVOTR's more experimental fetishes. While by no means bad, occasionally the band suffers from tempo problems and a couple of misplaced notes, in addition to unnecessarily dragging out the songs. The horns on the first track, while gritty enough, fail to express their intended function, instead playing flatly and exclaiming that they are present. "Wash the Day" goes on for almost eight minutes, and by the end I feel like the wrong selection was played. I never was a big fan of this song to begin with, but I have trouble continuing to keep an active interest in alternativelyAdebimpe belting out words one syllable at a time and Malone softly shrieking against a backdrop of guitar distortion that feels like the distortion itself is on acid. It goes on for over five minutes, and it drives me nuts.

If you're a serious TVOTR fan, you need this CD, as it is cheap on eBay and contains some significant recitals of Cookie Mountain-era "hits." "Wolf Like Me" and "Province" alone are worth the cover charge, and you can prove all those SNL watching haters wrong about TVOTR with this fine compact disc.

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