TV on the Radio, The Dirtbombs

The Vogue, Oct. 19

TV on the Radio has always been more or less defined by guitarist/producer David Sitek’s atmospheric, dense production in the studio and nearly stratospheric performance in the live setting. On record or at a show, Sitek demands attention.

Sitek added his indelible touch to damn near every song TV on the Radio performed — notably on the ceiling-scraping histrionics of “Halfway Home” and the tribal percussion on “A Method” — and the band was better for it.

That’s not to minimize singer Tunde Adebimpe and singer/guitarist Kyp Malone. This is an ensemble effort. But much in the same way Brian Eno elevated Roxy Music, Sitek elevates TV on the Radio. 

The band can’t quite pull of the multi-tracked, doo-wop vocals featured — rather incessantly — on their first two records, but both Malone and Adebimpe are engaging and thoroughly interesting singers.

It’s worth noting that with TV on the Radio’s increasing popularity and fame, it’s become more difficult to see the band without running into the inevitable fan who only knows “Halfway Home” and “Wolf Like Me.” When the band launched into the latter, the room exploded, and then fizzled out.

Still, the material from the band’s latest, Dear Science, doesn’t exactly hold the same potency as its older material. Never was that more evident when for the closer, the band reimagined the band’s droning, fuzzed-out classic “Staring at the Sun” as a pulsating, rave-up.

It killed.

This is the second time Detroit-based post-punk, art-soul outfit The Dirtbombs have played The Vogue in the last few months. They've been around forever, but the band hasn't yet broken through the monotony of the indie rock landscape.

They certainly have a handle on their audience, and on their raucous live set. For all the post-punk posturing and Lou Reed-esque cool frontman Mick Collins effortlessly bleeds, they're essentially a rock 'n' roll band. The group is a little pretentious, but even potentially disastrous gimmicks like the band's duel drummers work well. There's something exhilarating about the band's duel kit set up. At its best, The Dirtbombs betray their rock 'n' roll roots with slinky, seditious polyrhythms and abrasive electronics.

Ultimately the band's weak link has to be the lack of an interesting singer. Collins' can be entertaining as a performer — he closed his set with a nifty, behind the back guitar solo trick — but his vibe is simply far too banal and normal to truly captivate his audience. If it's true all great groups have a great frontman, The Dirtbombs seem to be playing with something short of a full deck. 

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