Despite abundant praise from the music press and associations with the likes of David Bowie and Jonathan Demme, TV on the Radio has always been a spectral group in indie rock. The members appear to float through the ether of adulation and powerful connections—not to suggest they have not helped engineer their own powerful stature.
True to form, the charming Nine Types of Light is an unfussy release that is likely to elicit more praise. Opener "Second Song" is a buzzing, richly layered piece that unfolds slowly into a swaggering stomp before ending awash in horns. Meanwhile, "Killer Crane" pullulates as its vibrating electronics and sterile piano reveal a cacophony of percussion and woodwinds; the result is rich, but never cluttered or distracting.
TV on the Radio's best asset has been its ability to deliver spice with sugar. "No Future Shock" smacks its jerky rhythms around before exploding into a crescendo of shouts, throttled guitars and strangled horns. "Caffeinated Consciousness" ebbs and flows, dispensing its apocalyptic lyrics as barked invectives or soothing coos.
Another in a lineage of strong releases, the only milestone of Nine Types of Light is a somber one: This record will be the last featuring bassist Gerard Smith, who recently lost his battle with lung cancer.
Recently, Robert Christgau stated, "It is racial stereotyping pure and simple to call TVOTR a funk band." Instead, one hopes, people may have been digging Smith's presence—specifically, the way his bass anchors the beautiful "Keep Your Heart" and drives the bouncy "Will Do."