Return to Cookie Mountain

TV on the Radio have literally just dropped their third album Return to Cookie Mountain in the US. The US copy has three bonus tracks; Snakes And Martyrs, an El-P remix of Hours, and Things You Can Do – well, lucky old me got sent a copy of the US release, so lets get to it…

In absolute honesty now, my appreciation of TV on The Radio before this new album was purely of the track Staring at the Sun – that’s not to say I don’t (or didn’t) like anything else by them, but more to say I just simply never listened to anything else. However, I’ve heard nothing but buckets of praise for this new album, and by all accounts I love Staring at the Sun, so I was very eager to hear this new creation.

The album is eleven tracks long, plus the three bonus tracks. It kicks off with I Was a Lover which, frankly, I love to bits, fantastic stuff. It has heavy slow paced bass beats, drawn out brass samples, and a very chaotic but graceful air about it – the vocals match the pace and feel of the music perfectly. Half way in it even breaks down with piano samples and higher pitched verses, although those heavy slow paced beats remain throughout. What a way to kick off an album.

TV on the Radio – I Was a Lover
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This download is a sample of the music only and must be deleted from your computer within 24 hours of downloading. This download link will expire on 28th September.

Next up is the track Hours. A laid back drum driven track with the ever-present high pitched vocals. It’s a pretty catchy track specially with its build up of instruments as it progresses, and maybe it’ll be a grower, but didn’t really think it was anything special. This leads us to Province, and by this point I’m really trying to work out this TVOTR method. One good quote from SPIN says “There’s an old saying that agitators play music because they like the noise it makes. TV on the Radio play noise because they like the music it makes.” Now my mind is working over time on this and if you try to ignore the vocals, the music doesn’t really sound too far detached from some Explosions In The Sky stuff (which is only a good thing), but I feel that TVOTR’s quirky high pitched vocals steal the thunder a bit too much for my liking. It overshadows the great music and actually irritates a bit. Maybe it would sound better live, I dunno.

The third track is Playhouses. It starts with some distorted electric samples and chant’esque vocals – then into a pretty funky drum arrangement. Playhouses has a great energy to it, but in a funny sense the vocals bring the whole thing back down to mediocrity, perhaps it’s just a case of “horses for courses”, but we’re four tracks in and I’m finding the vocals tiresome. Still, the music is great. Wolf Like Me is the track getting lots of hype at the moment, it has big punk feeling to it and actually steps away from some of the annoyances I found in a few of the previous tracks. Most rock albums have at least one ‘anthem’ on them and I think Wolf Like Me is the anthem on Return to Cookie Mountain.

A Method sounds like a TVOTR angle on a chant/barber-shop-quartet type track. It’s nice, and to be honest just a good breather from the previous chaos, although half way in it does perk up a bit. Like an extended interlude, a good album track for sure. Then Let the Devil In brings back the high octane energy. This is a brash experimental rock song, with the emphasis on tribal style drum patterns, electric guitar sounds, and chanting/shouting. Make of that what you will, it’s harmless enough, although nothing outstanding. Dirty Whirl calms things down once more, good keyboard sounds, retro style soul funk drum arrangement and interesting vocals. Although slightly calmer than some of the other tracks, it’s still pretty upbeat and has a good vibe to it.

Blues From Down Here is one of the less experimental sounding rock tracks on the album. It is mainly driven by chant style vocals and the traditional sounding rock drums. Like a lot of the tracks on this album, more instruments are layered and built into the track as it goes on – nice touch with the brass. Tonight is the penultimate track on the album and starts with very chilled pipe samples and laid back vocals. It builds on with a deep bassline and slow tambourine crashes. I like this track, the chanting vocals and chilled layers really come together to create a brilliant aural experience.

TV on the Radio – Tonight
>> download <<
This download is a sample of the music only and must be deleted from your computer within 24 hours of downloading. This download link will expire on 28th September.

The last track on the album is Was the Day Away. They finish the album off with some distorted electric guitar, steady drums and a medley of their pretty unique chant style vocals. It’s a pretty intense album and I’m sure a lot of rock fans will like it, but really doesn’t do much for me. I previously mentioned some bonus tracks for all the lucky American fans out there, well… after 15 tracks each containing 17 seconds of silence, we reach Snakes And Martyrs. This steps away from the intense distortion driven chant efforts and actually sounds more like a folk song. This is really quite good, nicely arranged and containing good melodies. The vocals are soothing in a strange way and the lyrics intriguing – David Bowie meets David Gilmour and pals. I like El-P and although this is an interesting remix of Hours, it’s really not that much of an improvement, more a different angle on the original (like most remixes, I guess). Last bonus track is Things You Can Do – quite a laid back effort that almost sounds a bit Blur like through the vocals and Skalpel/Jaga Jazzist like through the music.

In essence any album has the potential to either be immediately liked by someone or be deemed as a potential grower – more so with the latter it is easy to say but harder to judge, as we’re talking about the possibility of something happening in the future. Either way, I have listened to this album a few times and so far do not really see it is a masterpiece in any form. I thought that generally the music was fantastic, but I often found the vocals to be overpowering, irritating, and tiresome, but this seems to be the TVOTR sound. Not to suggest that TVOTR are a “love them or hate them” kind of band, but from speaking to various friends, contacts, and reading around, it would seem most people love this album, and some find it irritating. At the moment, and not exclusively, I find myself to be in the “found it irritating” gang. As you will have read, I genuinely enjoyed some of the tracks, but as an album it was perhaps not my “cup of tea”. Probably best to just make your own mind up.

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  • http://covertcuriosity.blogspot.com/ covertcuriosity

    Nice review. I can’t believe I’m just now getting into this band. Better late than never I guess..

  • http://covertcuriosity.blogspot.com/ covertcuriosity

    Nice review. I can’t believe I’m just now getting into this band. Better late than never I guess..

  • http://jeej.wordpress.com/ jeej

    So long as you enjoy what you hear, when you hear it, doesn’t matter how far behind the rest of the pack you are.

  • http://jeej.wordpress.com/ jeej

    So long as you enjoy what you hear, when you hear it, doesn’t matter how far behind the rest of the pack you are.

  • wildegirl

    Excellent review, This album has been the absolute darling of the music critics since most of the tracks were made available on t’internet some months ago. I’d heard it all long before it was availbale in the UK. But I did buy it as soon as it was released… I love it; I love the diversity of the music, the ‘oddness’ of the album as a whole. TVOTR have been likened to Fiery Furnaces, not for the musical similarities I suspect but for the frustrating nature of the albums. I diasgree, I still want to chuck FF’s album through a closed window. (I actually had a dream I took Blueberry Boat – or whatever it is called – back to the store and said ‘This is SHIT, I want my money back)’ Sorry, I digress….

    I have my doubts about this album being a grower. I’ve heard a few people call the album ‘annoying’. When you start with that mindset, it must be difficult to perservere with listening. Of course some music should challenge us; make us work for the enjoyment of it. I suspect to some this simply won’t be one of those albums.

    Cheers!

  • wildegirl

    Excellent review, This album has been the absolute darling of the music critics since most of the tracks were made available on t’internet some months ago. I’d heard it all long before it was availbale in the UK. But I did buy it as soon as it was released… I love it; I love the diversity of the music, the ‘oddness’ of the album as a whole. TVOTR have been likened to Fiery Furnaces, not for the musical similarities I suspect but for the frustrating nature of the albums. I diasgree, I still want to chuck FF’s album through a closed window. (I actually had a dream I took Blueberry Boat – or whatever it is called – back to the store and said ‘This is SHIT, I want my money back)’ Sorry, I digress….

    I have my doubts about this album being a grower. I’ve heard a few people call the album ‘annoying’. When you start with that mindset, it must be difficult to perservere with listening. Of course some music should challenge us; make us work for the enjoyment of it. I suspect to some this simply won’t be one of those albums.

    Cheers!

  • http://jeej.wordpress.com/ jeej

    It wasn’t so much that I started with that mindset, cos you don’t know what you’ve listened to till you’ve heard it, but it developed over the course of listening to the album. Think this will end up being one of those albums where I only listen to a few select tracks from it.

  • http://jeej.wordpress.com/ jeej

    It wasn’t so much that I started with that mindset, cos you don’t know what you’ve listened to till you’ve heard it, but it developed over the course of listening to the album. Think this will end up being one of those albums where I only listen to a few select tracks from it.

  • Marnee

    I just heard of these guys in the most odd way.I saw this commercial http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELQRkDzPUOU – which is pretty cool, btw- and I loved the song and found out it was Wolf Like Me by TVOTR. Now I’m a devoted fan.

  • Marnee

    I just heard of these guys in the most odd way.I saw this commercial http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELQRkDzPUOU – which is pretty cool, btw- and I loved the song and found out it was Wolf Like Me by TVOTR. Now I’m a devoted fan.