A career retrospective of one of the most unique bands of the new millennium, TV On The Radio, who are one of the few music acts that continually create and release alternative rock in a sea of radio morass. #TVontheradio #TVOTR #altrock
There are certain ironies I know I run into when I write about the band TV On The Radio.
The first, obviously, is that the majority of the members are Black. I get it, as it has been far too long since anyone has seen an all-Black or primarily-Black Rock and Roll band. The irony, of course, is that Black musicians created Rock and Roll, and there were Black Rock and Roll bands long before the dominance of white Rockers, such as Hank Ballard and The Midnighters and the Ike and Tina Turner Revue with the Kings of Rhythm.
The second, which causes more consternation with fans of current radio trends, is the phrase “Alternative”. This epithet, at one time, actually meant something. Starting off as Underground music, then Art Rock, then Punk, then New Wave, then College Rock, then Modern Rock to its most lasting label, Alternative, has become a sad marketing gimmick that has prevailed for far too long. As a radio format, it has been dull, lifeless and a complete joke for years, much like the Age of Aquarius was to 1969 compared to what happened shortly after the Rolling Stones free concert at Altamont.
Standout artists in these genres used to be hailed and celebrated. Now, they are considered anathema and disruptive. Advertisers, of course, by and large, can’t associate with acts that are too weird anymore, because it doesn’t jive with their one-size-fits all marketing plan. And yes, it is advertisers that are driving radio, not local programmers or people in love with the music.
Even with advertisers and radio killing exciting new music left and right, once in a while, you are given a gift. TV On The Radio, whom many describe as an Art-Rock group, hail from Brooklyn, New York, and have built a small and rabid fan base outside of the Tri-State area. Starting off giving their work away on diskettes in and around the Big Apple, a release they dubbed OK Calculator, they eventually signed with long respected indie Touch and Go out of Chicago. Subsequent releases in the U.S. have been on Interscope and Harvest.
They were far from a traditional Rock band, often incorporating new technology and sounds, like loops, into their mix and toured steadily. With the addition of Gerard Smith on bass, a man lead vocalist Tunde Adebimpe “discovered” busking for change at a subway, the band clicked into their formidable mix that made them perennial critics darlings with their back to back releases of Return to Cookie Mountain from 2006 and and Dear Science in 2008.
They would often break from the band to work on other projects, causing their fans to wonder if they weren’t coming back. They did come back in 2011 with Nine Types of Light, complete with a short film, but this incarnation of the group was not to last, as Butler died that year of lung cancer at just the age of 36.
Since then, they have released one more album of new material, Seeds, in 2014 to solid reviews. The band members have been keeping busy with other projects again, and no one other than the group truly knows if the moniker they once performed under will make its comeback.
The third and final irony of this program is that TV On The Radio were not meant to make truly Alternative Rock real and alive again, but somehow they did. This show is by special request of Ryan Duncum as a birthday gift, and I hope it brings you joy.
- Mercy, 2013, single A-side
- Nature Boy, 2008, RE: Generations (Nat King Cole with TV On The Radio)
- Future Shock, 2011, Nine Types of Light
- Bicycles Are Red Hot, 2002, OK Calculator
- Satellite, 2003, Young Liars EP
- Ambulance, 2004, Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes
- Staring At The Sun, 2004, Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes
- Let The Devil In, 2006, Return to Cookie Mountain
- Happy Idiot, 2014, Seeds
- New Health Rock, 2004, single A-side
- Golden Age, 2008, Dear Science
- Trouble, 2014, Seeds
- Wolf Like Me (live), 2015, live from Austin City Limits
Love to you all.
Ben “Daddy Ben Bear” Brown Jr.
Host, Show Producer, Webmaster, Audio Engineer, Researcher, Videographer and Writer
“Copyright Disclaimer Under Section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for ‘fair use’ for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. Fair use is a use permitted by copyright statute that might otherwise be infringing. Non-profit, educational or personal use tips the balance in favor of fair use.”