TV ON THE RADIO Return To Cookie Mountain (Touch And Go/4AD)
On their second album this Brooklyn quintet make a curious music. Imagine if, at the down of the 80s, Talking Heads had tempered the frantic African polyrhythms that powered their Remain In Light by suggesting that thered always been a ska element to their music, and the result might have been something as bizarre as Return To Cookie Mountain. These jerky, nervous songs bristle with technology, and although its not an unattractive sound, its definitely disconcerting.
Take Method, for example. Its whistled, echoing intro is pure film noir, summoning up images of dark, deserted streets and a raincoat with the collar pulled up against the elements yet within seconds its all pattering percussion and wordless harmonies. Celebrity hipster heatseeker David Bowie sings on Province, not because the song really needs his help, you suspect, but just because he can. The frenetic clatter of Playhouses is wreathed in stylised distortion and feedback, and the clarinet solo in Tonight is indicative of an ever-broadening sonic palette.
With all its twisty turns and refusal to let the listener get too comfortable, Return To Cookie Mountain isnt the sort of record youll find yourself humming when its not around; its more an interesting collection of challenging ideas that dont really make sweet music together. A couple of other whinges, whilst Im at it: the British vinyl pressing has a centre hole thats about a micron smaller than my gramophones spindle, requiring the laws of physics (and the disc itself, rather alarmingly) to be gently bent every time I want to play it, and the covers typographic battleground looks like a parody of a 4AD sleeve. Vaughan Oliver, hang your head in shame!