Monday, December 21, 2009

BIBJ Playlist of the 2000s: The Recap and #1 Entry


Take your best guess as to the identity of entry #1, then click below to revel in your own indifference!

1:  TV On The Radio - Wolf Like Me

From a musical standpoint, the decade of the aughts/naughts/Robert Parishes was one of deconstruction.  Hip hop thrived under a movement that made stars of producers who embraced minimalistic beats, looping them into memorable hooks-turned-anthemic ringtones.  The wispy beard rock movement channeled their inner wayback machines to the eras from decades ago, utilizing bare harmonies and simplistic chord progression to remarkably dense effect.  Jack White likely had the most prolific decade of anyone by distilling the rock ethos down to it's blues-laden core.  A relatively noteworthy British quintet began the decade making a record that stripped away any element of conventional rock, and ended the 00s by stripping away the conventional middle man system of record labels.  Bombast and stadium rock retained their presence, but it's a notion that feels far more antiquated now than it did in 1999.  Instead straight-ahead rock has been usurped by the more subtle textures of layers and space within compositions.

To a large extent, TV on the Radio fit seamlessly in with this movement of "less is more, but more weird is even more."  As "I Was a Lover" opens Return to Cookie Mountain, it's an initially uncomfortable introduction.  The horns battle with an uneven drone, rocking back and forth as if in a drunken stupor, accented by drum machines both subtle and decidedly unsubtle.  This swirling atmosphere of dizzying production continues through the first four tracks.  It's a good thing that press releases informed the public of David Bowie's backing vocals on "Province", because otherwise I'd have no idea he was somewhere buried within the walls of reverb and feedback.   By the time the listener gets through the first 18 minutes of the album, he or she feel exhausted figuring out what they've digested.

Then "Wolf Like Me" kicks in.

If any of the previous ambience has lulled the listener into a catatonic and/or frustrated state, the drums offer a quick kick to the teeth, as if to say, "Hey asshole!  Wake up!"  From the outset, the rhythm is an unrelenting runaway truck, flexing it's might and eschewing any notion of subtlety or experimentation.  The guitars are fuzzed to the limit, barely keeping up with the intensity of the skins.  It's a balls to the wall rock song, even before Tunde Adebimpe start howling like, well, you know... 

There's nothing overly innovative about the lyrical content.  The animalistic power/sex/mind control themes aren't breaking any ground, but the urgency is overpowering.  After the dream-like bridge allows a chance to breathe, the outro ramps the fervor back up to full blast.  The vocal chants swirl underneath each other, prepared to remain howling forever.  Who would want to stop them?


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