I consume music in waves. Sometimes I’ll attain entire directories of random songs and wind through them in nonchalant shuffle. Other times I’ll get that perfect album that will be my one and only for weeks on end. My iPod will become a shrine, forbidden to worship anything outside of those 11 or 12 tracks (and perhaps previous efforts by the band).
Dear Science from TV on the Radio has become one such record. The timing was perfect – early October, when the world appeared to be imploding and we were held anxious on the crest of the zeitgeist wave. They created a record incredibly thoughtful, posing questions, accusations at a world stage. But in the answers they give, their notes of confidence and hope belie all that despair. They say: at least we have each other, and we have music.
Halfway Home begins with simple guitar distortion, accompanied with bop-bopping; then the back opens up into an interstellar journey beyond the sun and into the deepest heart. –
“Now surfs the sun and scales the moon
And winds the waistband of her womb
All eyes ablaze the day you break your mold”
Crying brings us back to earth with a funky baseline, overlaid on static snare, all for soaring vocals worthy of Prince –
“Gold is another word for culture.
Leads to fattening
Of the vultures
Till this bird can barely fly.”
Dancing Choose is nearly rapped over a minimalist bass and droning amp – hard, fast and angry, the tale of a man dancing oblivious as the world burns –
“though he expresses some confusion
bout his part in the plan,
and he can’t understand
that he’s not in command;
the decisions underwritten
by the cash in his hand
bought a sweater for
his weimariner too”
But there’s some hope, in Golden Age, whispered at first, a fleeting glimpse, then growing and rising –
“The age of miracles.
The age of sound.
Well there’s a Golden Age.
Comin’ round, comin’ round, comin’ round!”
But we still haven’t escaped the sorrow of the past, the legacy of racism and hate that becomes infused as shame in Family Tree –
“Were hanging in the shadow of your family tree
Your haunted heart and me
Brought down by an old idea whose time has come
And in the shadow of the gallows of your family tree
There’s a hundred hearts or three
Pumping blood to the roots of evil to keep them young”
And perhaps we really are destined for Armageddon, the foreboding anthem of DLZ, first a straightforward enumeration of complaints and then degeneration into wailing –
“This is beginning to feel like the long
winded blues of the never
Static explosion devoted to crushing the broken
and shoving their souls to ghost”
If that’s our fate – what have we left? The ones we love. As the world beyond the bedroom walls crumble, all that rage and pain transformed into a sweaty, physical act of intimacy on Lover’s Day –
“Ball so hard we’ll smash the walls.
Break the bed.
And Crash the floors!
Laugh and Scream!
And have the neighbors call the cops!
till all the eyes that’ve seen our fire play!!
Mark it down.
Call it Lovers Day!!
Yes here of course there are miracles.
Under your sighs and moans.
I’m Gonna take you.
I’m Gonna take you.
I’m Gonna take you home.”