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The Daily Utah Chronicle

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CD Deathmatch

Self-improvement is an essential component of being a great band-no artist or group ever developed its sound by simply doing the exact same thing over and over and over again.

This is largely the reason the first Ratt record is cool and every other one is depressingly pathetic.

Proposed, then, for consideration are two bands’-currently under construction-new albums: TV on the Radio’s Return to Cookie Mountain and The Rapture’s Pieces of the People We Love. Each band has a distinct starting sound and arrives at a place different from where it began when the new records are over and done with. One (TV on the Radio) does this by digging down to the roots of its established aesthetic, the other (The Rapture) by braving new methods and techniques.

Both are viable and pretty awesome, but this is CD Deathmatch-‘viable’ and ‘awesome’ aren’t always enough. One band must die, one band must triumph. Let’s do this.


Pieces of the People We Love-The Rapture had a solid, almost foundational dance-pop phenomenon on its hands with Pieces’ predecessor, Echoes. The record was a wire-taught performance of anxiety and euphoria-a sort of debauched anthemic record that captured the danger and attraction of life as a party on the brink of destruction.

In a brave move, The Rapture took its music in a decidedly different direction with Pieces, positioning itself as a somehow guiltless reveler: a participant in the life-party without much in the way of worry. The beats are funkier (thank you, DJ Dangermouse), and the instrumentation is less clangy. There is some cowbell here and there-this is, after all, still The Rapture-but its function is less as fire alarm and more as, well, cowbell (a large, bovine-like emission). Tracks like “Get Myself Into It” and “Don Gon Do It” showcase this new sensibility with flair and confidence.

Return to Cookie Mountain-With the release of the band’s second full-length, TV on the Radio proves that the appeal of its previous records-an appeal characterized by layers upon layers of sonic atmospherics, lyrical mercury and emotional harmony-was no fluke. This quality of self-generation (the quality of creating music of such character and resonance that it, literally, develops its own distinct personality) is the unmistakable signature of TV on the Radio.

Cookie Mountain is at once a return to form and an improvement thereof. The album is all depth and nuance: No single track is a moralizing, linear exercise. Tracks like “Province” and “Wolf Like Me” are less about their subjects (superficially: a sense of romantic courage and transformation, respectively) than about the unique experience of listening.

To hear the octave breakdowns and tenor shifts in “Province” is to understand-or rather, undertake-the song. To read the lyrics is to miss the point.


Pieces of the People We Love-The problem for The Rapture is that, with all the exuberance, there is little room for tension.

With the shift from frantic to festive, the band lost a degree of urgency-the uniform emotional landscape of Pieces does not allow for much in the way of terror, and a lack of terror equals a lack of immediacy.

Whereas the first record was thematically savvy enough to ironically play with the space between oblivion and ecstasy, the new record settles for the glut of pleasure. Echoes was the soundtrack to the rapture-the biblical ending of time, the moment before the end of all things. It was euphoric and scary and eerily postmodern. The new record is more of The Rapture a la Prince-a party like it was 1999.

Return to Cookie Mountain-A problem with this type of distinct and slippery music is that it, as a necessary part of its construction, resists “meaningful” interpretations.

That is, TV on the Radio is making music on this record that we cannot really explain-and this can be alienating. If we can’t figure a fixed, concrete value, some will become frustrated to the point of dissatisfaction. It is sad, but true, that there are people in this world who are so reliant upon the ability to apply an unchanging and absolute understanding to music (and art in general), that when this act is forbidden, they curl up in little fetal balls of unhappiness. TV on the Radio is clearly not for these sorts of people.

That (vaguely) exclusive characteristic is unfortunate. It is also the only real downfall of Cookie Mountain. On the level of sound, this record is honestly flawless.

Final Count

Pieces of the People We Love

The Rapture does not lose credibility or show itself to be of lesser talent than previously thought with the release of its new record, but it does choicefully disavow one of its greatest strengths (establishing an unavoidable anxiety in their songs) in favor of setting forth in a new creative direction.

The band took a chance.

Bands need to do this.

However, not every risk pans out.

That is the problem with Pieces: The new direction turned out to be less compelling and less immediate than the last one. So, now: on to yet another.

Return to Cookie Mountain

TV on the Radio ultimately beat out The Rapture in a comparative analysis, because what TV on the Radio manages is a deepening, whereas what The Rapture manages is a superficial broadening.

The bottom line is this: Two bands undertook the improvement of their distinct and individual sounds-by very different means. One struck out into new territory and came back wanting, the other dug down into the ground upon which it already stood and returned enriched, rooted, mature. TV on the Radio rules the day.

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