TV On The Radio are a peculiar beast. Their output has always, rightly, been critically acclaimed, but I’ve always felt they’ve been too reticent in places, masking some extraordinary tunes in too much sonic camouflage, always leaving a something in reserve. Seeds changes that however and sees the band produce their most accessible album yet but one which crucially doesn’t compromise their musical ideals.
Following 2011’s Nine Types Of Light, the band tragically lost Gerard Smith to cancer and bar the singles Mercy and Million Miles there have been no releases since then, but whereas you might expect Seeds to be slightly downbeat, it is in fact the opposite. Opener Quartz is a mass of sampled vocals and beats all topped off by Tunde Adebimpe’s as ever extraordinary voice and a quite marvellous chorus and really sets the scene for the album. The first standout moment is track 2, Careful You. Mixing cascading white noise and a pulsing electro bass, the song has a pure pop chorus that instantly burrows inside your ears and doesn’t leave. You just about recover from how good the song is when Could You starts. This song could be a modern day Beatles track with Rubber Soul like guitars building to a brass section both of which are again topped off by Tunde singing like an angel, albeit a very imposing one. It’s brilliant. It’s a song that will have crowds in concert halls all over the world jumping around. The same can be said of the next track Happy Idiot which once again plays the pop card and plays it as well as anyone.
The album starts off so strongly and at such a pace that the beautiful song of love and regret, Test Pilot, comes along at just the right time to slow things down and allow you to catch your breath. Test Pilot is a terrific track and one of the album’s high points. It’s one of those TV On The Radio tracks that throws all manner of musical styles and sounds into the mix but still sounds triumphant. It’s followed by Love Stained which is the first lull in proceedings but that’s soon forgotten once Ride arrives. The track initially sends you the wrong way with a couple of minutes of treated piano chords and background electronics, almost Behaviour era Pet Shop Boys in sound and style, before the main body of the song explodes into life turning into one of the most joyous songs you’ll have heard in years. Ride is followed by Right Now which is a mix of pop and soul before the band unleash their inner Pixies with Winter and Lazerray. The latter is the best of the two and is another of the album’s standouts.
Coming across like a mix of the best of Bossa Nova and Trompe Le Monde, it even shares Black Francis’ space obsession with lyrics about laser rays, other dimensions and the like. The Flaming Lips like Trouble follows before the beautiful Seeds closes proceedings. Seeds is a great end to the album , promising hope for the future (“Rain comes down like it always does/This time I’ve got Seeds on ground”) over shuffling beats and threatening synths and once again highlighting Tunde’s voice perfectly.
Seeds is a fantastic album and one that you really should hear. As well as playing to the band’s obvious strengths (Sitek’s stuido wizardry, Adebimpe’s voice), they also take risks by making the album sound poppier than they ever have done and those risks pay off. This is TV On The Radio’s most complete work and it is a very special album indeed.