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Concussive debut album from New York avant-rockers

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Following the critical success of last summer’s “Young Liars” EP, New York’s TV On The Radio continue to come at you from all sides with their debut album. There are various precedents bundled together here?Suicide, Zappa, The Beach Boys, Sun Ra. However, a cover of the Pixies’ “Mr Grieves” on “Young Liars” suggested a lineage to which you could attach Yeah Yeah Yeahs producer David Sitek and vocalist Tunde Adebimpe’s outfit. Like the Pixies, they manage to combine a sense of raging intensity while being off-centre, rather than merely straight-ahead rock. Whereas the Pixies sometimes felt empty at heart, however, that organ is positively bursting in TV On The Radio. “I know your heart can’t breathe what your eyes won’t see,” cries Adebimpe on “Dreams”. It’s like Brian Wilson’s upper register lamentations ratcheted up yet one more notch.

Now augmented by guitarist Kyp Malone, who also adds falsetto vocals, TV On The Radio still feel more like a shock-rock proposition, a crashing alternative to the often retro, posturing New York noo rawk scene, still subsisting on punk’s trust fund. Opener “The Wrong Way”, with its motorik electro-pulse, skittering guitars and parping horns, is a far more effective transcription of frantic, funky Manhattan than the CBGBs set ever dreamt of. The soul fibres of “Don’t Love You” unravel like the relationship depicted in the lyric, and “Bomb Yourself” pumps both blood and adrenalin. The present line-up of two black to one white man ought not raise eyebrows this late on, and the band would doubtless see this as a natural coming together rather than a multi-cultural experiment. Still, with rock and pop more, not less racially polarised than 20 years ago, it is striking. “Ambulance” perhaps slyly references the (non-)issue of the band’s ethnicity.

But what grabs you by the lapels is their sonic colourisation, their rush of tangents, their melding of cool experimentalism with red-hot purpose. And what’s most frightening is that, mighty as Desperate Youth… is, their real stone killer is probably yet to come.

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