TV on the Radio is one of the most important bands of the past ten years, and, until recently, their music wouldn’t let you forget it. Too often, in the past, the band sounded ponderous. Take “Staring at the Sun,” from 2004’s Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes: Guitarist/producer Dave Sitek creates an overwhelming atmosphere with keyboards and guitars, and singer Tunde Adebimpe comes in with scary-sounding multitracked vocals — something about a “storefront cemetery.” (It’s hard to tell who’s who in the demonic choir, but I think he gets some help from guitarist Kyp Malone and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O.) The tension builds and builds and never gets released. It’s impressive but easier to admire than it is to love.
Sitek has been one of the busiest people in rock over the past few years, collaborating with legends David Bowie and David Byrne and producing everyone from Yeah Yeah Yeahs to Scarlett Johansson. He moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles and put out an album last year under the name Maximum Balloon. He even joined Jane’s Addiction as a bass player.
Perhaps all this activity has loosened up TV on the Radio, because the band’s new material is the most accessible it has ever released. “Will Do” begins with a kalimba-like keyboard tinkling before Adebimpe coos, “It might be impractical to seek out a new romance.” Weird sound effects pop in and out, creating an atmosphere of disorientation, but never at the expense of rhythm and melody. It reminds me of Peter Gabriel’s early ’80s single “Games Without Frontiers” — an avant-garde experiment that was catchy enough to hit the pop charts.
TV ON THE RADIO: 4th&B, Monday, May 2, 8 p.m. 619-231-4343. $25, 35.