October 15, 2008

Note to All: Band Together

Print More

I think everyone should get to enjoy playing in a band at least once. And by band, I mean many things. You don’t have to rock a guitar in a pseudo-punk garage group (or whatever) to have a kick ass time. You can play in a marching band, an orchestra, a jazz band, do something crazy new-age with sound boards, or bring back the didgeridoo.
In high school, I was a total band geek. I even had the stereotypical head gear — though, thankfully, my orthodontist (Dr. Hand) only required that I wear it at night. I played trombone in the wind ensemble and jazz band throughout high school and, I have to say, it was a lot of fun. I miss it now.
Perhaps one of my favorite memories from high school was playing in the pit band for a musical, Pirates of Penzance, during my senior year. I got to play bells, xylophone and marimba, because the trombone section was full and because I read music way better than any of the other percussionists. It was awesome.
The best part was that the xylophone part played along with the melody of “Modern Major General,” an infamously fast piece that, even now, I’m convinced goes at the speed of light. Yes, the actual speed of light. I practiced more for that one song than I probably did during the rest of my high school years put together.
We were all very sad when the play was over. It was a relief, of course, because it had taken a lot of time and energy, but we had a blast doing it. And we were proud of how the show had turned out (great, by the way), and pumped that people had seemed to enjoy it. Of course, it was all our parents in the audience, but I like to think they would have enjoyed it in any case.
For those involved in a band (in the guitar, bass and drums sense), I imagine that this is what completing an album feels like — a mixture of pride, relief, sadness and a lot of hoping that people like it. Consequently, I imagine that it really sucks to get a bad album review from someone like me, who couldn’t write the music or play most of the parts in a million years.
That all being said, TV on the Radio has a new album. The record is entitled Dear Science, and it came out about two weeks ago. Now, I know that was an ominous lead-up but … this album rocks. I have long been a fan of TV on the Radio, but this is TV on the Radio like you’ve never heard them before and, I say again, it rocks.
The album is rhythm-heavy (i.e. lots of drums and bass) in traditional TVotR style, but beyond that, it gets a whole lot different.
The general tone of the album is much less obscure and abrasive, and far more catchy, with the potential to impress a much wider audience. But worry not, ye die-hard fans, TV on the Radio as we knew them are not gone. The song lyrics across pretty much all 11 tracks are as confusing, alternative and even self-loathing as they always have been. The music is smoother and swingier, but the words are darker and rather noticeably obsessed with death, with the possible exception of the final song, entitled “Lover’s Day,” which, as my boyfriend put it, “is just a sweet song about getting it on.” The lyrics here are in no way layered or confusing — the message (“I’m gonna shake you, I’m gonna make you cum”) is more than clear.
The music on this album is, if it’s possible, even more textured than the last album, Return to Cookie Mountain. There’s just so much going on in every song — five-plus instruments and parts in each, and some very kickin’ vocals. Several times throughout the album, in fact, the vocal melody anticipates the guitar part, by singing something seemingly unrelated and then singing it again, this time joined by the guitar chords. Pretty neat, eh?
Ok, so I know this column has been pretty disjointed, but I think the take-home message is to make music and have fun with it — pick up an instrument, join a band (any band) and play something you can be proud of. And buy Dear Science, because these guys have got to be proud of this album, and if they were hoping people would like it, I’m certain they got their wish.

P.S. When I say buy, I do mean actually purchase. I know you’re poor college students (I am too) but in this case, it’s really, really worth it. These guys have got to get paid, so they can keep on doing what they’re doing. ‘Cuz what they’re doing is awesome.