Ayo Jegede
reviews editor
May 13, 2004
Amazon Disco:
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Rock Music Reviews
TV On The Radio
Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes

i'm an idiot. all this time i've been classifying TV On The Radio as part Garage, an error i now attribute to David Sitek because he produced the Yeah Yeah Yeah's Machine EP and their full-length Fever to Tell. both are strong pieces and i was eager to associate Sitek's laudable production to the sound he crafted with his own band. but eventually i determined that any set of classifications would be malapropric, putting into question every musical system ever fathomed. each spin of their debut album can either indicate a new layer of composition previously unnoticed or simplify what you thought to be amazing complexity and beautiful sonic collusion. there are no genres with Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes. every categorization is arbitrary and syntactic, revealing nothing of the band's work.

so where to begin? well, take the members themselves. lead singer Tunde Adebimpe is a graduate of NYU's film school and a visual painter as is Sitek. this detail is perhaps the greatest indication of the band's aim, as everything is meant to infect and stir the senses. there's one thing you may notice about the songs: there aren't any predictable climacterics. there's build-up, there's denoument, but most of the songs are predominantly steady explosions of sublime and scientific musical influences. in that respect the songs are organized and presented as though they were visual pieces. Pablo Picasso's 'Guernica' manages to roll up horror, deprivation, and expectation through a forum that's described as almost entirely static. and yes, one can (unfairly) typify the album as greatly static, but every minute is so dense, terse, and taut that you forget it's a song. it becomes a picture of immaculate scale.

take 'Ambulance,' the glorious a-capella doo wop combo. besides being an amazing centerpiece, it manages to use the right aspects of minimalistic song-making to paint a beautiful image. pieces such as 'Staring at The Sun,' 'King Eternal' and 'Dreams' could have easily been bent to sound similar since all used the same components. but the slight and brilliant alterations among them makes each so radically distinct. the distorted bass on one song, deleterious and frightening, could sound coy and sluggish on another. drumming on one song can sound top heavy and dense ('Poppy') or loose and infectious ('Bomb Yourself'). all of them, however, are narratives that employ the same tools. the amazing part is how they've managed to permutate a single set to produce a rainbow of genres and influences.

top 10? definitely.

Release date: March 9, 2004
Label: Touch & Go
Rating: 10.0 / 10

[RMR]