Album Reviews: Return to Cookie Mountain (Bonus Tracks) by TV on the RadioWhere's Cookie Mountain? No, don't click on Mapquest or Google Maps. The only way to get there is to sit down, turn on your iPod and listen to TV on the Radio's latest effort. It's a state of mind, and it's worth the trip.
TV on the Radio is one of those bands that relish their spot as outsiders and thinkers. Their previous releases -- two LPs and two EPs -- were bizarre and sometimes brilliant mixes of varying genres. There was post-punk, there was electronica, there was free jazz, a cappella, trip-hop, spoken word -- you name it, it was likely to be found somewhere on one of these albums. The band, formed in 2001, seemed to be aimlessly experimenting, searching for what struck the right chords. Sometimes they found these chords, like on "Staring At the Sun" from their 2004 release Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes. Other times, they did not fare as well, offering up noise instead of brilliance.
Return to Cookie Mountain¸ TV on the Radio's first major label release (on Interscope) is the soundtrack that opens the doors to a fictional wonderland. The name seems straight from a fairly tale, but the songs are both dangerous and vibrant. As you travel through the album, different notes, chants, and noises pop out of the loops of distortion in the background. Narrating your journey is singer Tunde Adebimpe's uniquely soulful voice, his vocals at times thrust front and center, at other times just serving as melody in the background. This world's swirling soundscapes play like an organic version of Radiohead's computerized distortions.
The lives lived on Cookie Mountain, Tunde tells us, are filled with hopeless romantics of all kinds, from the tragic loser to the reckless predator. In "Hours" we learn of lives of overconfidence and shallowness. And "Wolf Like Me" finds someone out on the hunt for love with the mentality of a werewolf. Somewhere else on the mountain, devils and pirates rush around playhouses with broken spirits. On "Let the Devil In," Tunde warns that all must repent or "when we get to heaven's gate we're not getting inside." But most of the time, Tunde is the observer, viewing the world as he brings us through it.
The songs are so rich in detail that there are new things to be discovered on each pass through. Producer David Andrew Sitek does his best to fill every bit of empty space with a loop, beat, keynote, guitar slide, or sample. You truly have to return to Cookie Mountain many a time to take it all in.
And this time TVOR didn't make a mess. Instead, Return to Cookie Mountain finds them discovering the formula that brings their multi-layered tracks from crash to classic. "We did believe in magic, we did believe," Tunde sings on the album's closer, "Wash The Day." That magic is abundant on Return to Cookie Mountain. - David Pessah, kNewIt06
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