TV On The Radio – ‘Return to Cookie Mountain’ – Round 14: Rob’s choice

‘Guilty Displeasures’ is a great theme and once i’d set aside The Microphones ‘The Glow Pt 2’ and ‘Led Zep III’ (listened to them again, turned out they were pretty good after all) I settled on ‘Return to Cookie Mountain’ quickly.

It seemed to be lauded from all sides when released, it came 2nd in Pitchfork’s end of year list for 2006 and seemed, by all accounts, to be redefining rock music. I expected to have my head blown off when I heard it. I didn’t get it at the time and have been trying ever since. The symphonic/electronic swoosh of ‘I Was A Lover’ promises much, but the rest of the record is just so… damned… boring…

I don’t know why, but I just don’t hear anything revolutionary in here, and with the added irritation of some of the most drained, lifeless singing i’ve ever heard, I find it bland verging on unbearable. ‘Wolf Like Me’, for many the standout track, chugs along nicely, but what the hell is that playground chant-along we get in place of vocals with some passion, some life. Reading back, it makes sense that TV On The Radio apparently came to music from visual art. This record, to me, sounds like a conceptual, academic exercise. No fire, no danger, no jeopardy. No thanks.

I’ve listened to it dozens of times, each one expecting the switch to flick. Never happens. I mustered up the same optimism this evening, hoping one of my fellow listeners would articulate what i’d been missing and open the lock for me. I’ll let them speak for themselves, but the rest of DRC seemed to share my view as we listened again this evening, to the shocking extent that this became the first, and I hope the last, record we have ever taken off before it finished. I wonder now whether this is a hipster band, one that lots of people hope to like, but really, deep down, find their relationship with them is pretty cold and sterile.

Still, at least it’s not as boring as ‘Dear Science’.

Tom Listened: I think Return To Cookie Mountain is MORE boring than Dear Science. In fact, I quite like Dear Science; it has an lightness of touch and a bit of character…but I wholeheartedly agree with Rob in his assertion that RTCM is one of the most overrated albums of recent times. He’s right, it is mainly the singing that’s the problem. Although technically accomplished enough, both Kyp Malone and Tunde Adebimpe sound as though they are going through the motions on RTCM and this, coupled with pretty annoying production and some bland songs, suggest to me that this is, perhaps, one displeasure none of us have to feel too guilty about.

Nick listened: Total and utter agreement with Rob about this record. Like him I’ve been trying for five years to see what it is that other people, including plenty of whom that I respect in terms of musical choices, have seen in this record. At one point, many moons ago, I thought I’d had an epiphany with the piano strikes in Province, but it soon passed. RTCM is, to my ears, a mess of a record; loud, muffled, confused, aimless, passionless. A couple of times, including Wolf Like Me, it gathers some momentum and some life, but generally it sounds like a machine grinding confusingly for the sake of grinding, producing nothing, doing nothing, no end product. The melodies sound forced to me, the rhythms awkward and unphysical, unpleasurable, the drones and chaos atop neither exhilarating or beautiful. This was the first TVOTR release I bought, and had I not been determined to understand what their USP was it would have been the last; I’ve subsequently found that I actually really enjoy their debut EP and quite like their album previous to this, too; both employ a much lighter touch, a sense of freedom and fun that seems absent here for some reason. I hate to use words like dull and boring as pejoratives when writing about music because they’re so lifeless and meaningless and in the ear of the beholder, but RTCM, quite simply, bores the crap out of me. I thoroughly encouraged us to turn it off, and was delighted when we did.

Graham Listened: All I can really add to the comments above is “ditto”. Really lost on me how this could attract such critical acclaim. Nothing to feel guilty about in my opinion.

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