I‘ve known myself to waste considerable amounts of time getting irrationally angry at the inconsequential. I wouldn’t say I’m a pessimist, but despite best intentions my internal monologue seems stricken by the Napoleon complex, and on a near-constant basis it seethes about stuff it needn’t. Dawdling walkers, uncooperative bowling balls, impenetrable packaging – all have fallen victim to the searing heat of my unexpressed vitriol.
It extends to that which I see online; I surf the web as we all do, face unchanging with sunken eyes, but among the tuts and nose-sighs are traces of the acute hatred that bubbles within. The music spheres that my internet habits steer me towards present dozens of vapid, trend-following album covers, and all-caps band names with the vowels removed or U’s exchanged for V’s. To an almost inexplicable degree, I write them all off. “Those are tell-tale signs of unoriginal minds,” inner-me reasons, “and not worth my valuable time.”
“Lyric videos?!” he recently sneered, turning his nose up like a child to veggies. “The once-great TV On The Radio reduced to this. Those crusty sell-outs.” In part, I agreed with him. The first two tracks released from their upcoming fifth album Seeds came in the form of colourful lyric videos, a bold sans-serif font atop lurches of shapes and smoke. I was mildly disgusted at the lack of creativity on display, not only in regards to the tired imagery and lacklustre audio-visual syncing but also the lyrics themselves. Primed for car adverts, ‘Happy Idiot‘ contains the boring idiom of “What you don’t know won’t hurt you yeah, ignorance is bliss,” and while more tolerable, ‘Careful You‘ is basically built around the substandard ain’t-I-clever wordplay of “careful you” and “care for you” sounding the same, which I suspect is the main reason for the lyric video in the first place. I felt disappointed. Crushed.
This is a band that I’ve long heralded as stellar, and they were really the guides to my transition into a self-reliant music fan. They had an irresistible pull, forward-thinking in their approach, always producing that which was challenging yet nourishing. With each album came a sensible, impressive development. Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsy Babes was an uncertain veer away from their pre-full length material, Return To Cookie Mountain daring in its reservation. Then came Dear Science, its production fiery hot and fierce, only to be succeeded by the mellow Nine Types of Light, a slowing of the tape, doting tales of undying love.
Out of stomach-blushing guilt and a sense of firm loyalty, I’ve watched and listened to these lyric videos over and over. The elements that I would consider flaws remain present each time – the grimaces at lines that are unnecessarily in French, for example, aren’t dwindling – but I have become more accepting of the tracks on the audio side of things. And from what I can tell, they’ve been well-received by fans, long-time and new. It hit me that TV On The Radio have to be proud of what they’re putting out, else it wouldn’t be there.
“What can fans justly expect when it comes to follow-up albums? It can often be a lose-lose situation for a band.”
“Yawn,” interjects inner monologue. “It’s apologist viewpoints like that that turn things stagnant. They’re a cop-out. They’re as damaging to discussion as the everyone-is-entitled-to-an-opinion argument. It’s not unreasonable for fans to dislike a band’s progression, regardless of the work put into it. If it’s publicly available, it’s subject to scrutiny. If you have to force yourself to like it, then you don’t like it – that’s Stockholm syndrome.”
Sure, but to that end what can fans justly expect when it comes to follow-up albums? It can often be a lose-lose situation for a band. If they take a gamble and try to reinvent themselves, the risk run is that of alienating their entire fan base – if they stay with the techniques that accrued those fans in the first place, they’ll get lambasted for playing it safe. What’s left for them to do except what they want? Who should be in charge of their direction? If it’s left to the fans to dictate where a band does and doesn’t go, they become stripped of their identity, they’re puppets at that point. It’s kinda unfair to scold TV On The Radio on that front. I wouldn’t say that fans are entitled to anything more than honesty and decency.
“Well aren’t you a gentle soul. You can’t go around liking stuff out of empathy alone, scared you’re gonna hurt someone’s feelings. A whole team of people probably worked really hard on Batman & Robin and were proud of the final product, but that doesn’t stop it from being fucking awful.”
Okay, fine, I concede. Completely different scales of suckitude, but I get it. Best that we put this to one side and carry on swearing silently at the piss-poor WiFi.