Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

TV on the Radio: Return to Cookie Mountain [Interscope, 2006]
Proud foe of prog, poetasters and their debut album, I filed this under overwrought 'til I could bear the clamor of their youthful cohort no longer, and soon I was sucker-punched by its opening salvo, four sour treated-horns-with-sitar notes that remain the best thing on the record, immediately followed by the second-best thing, Tunde Adebimpe's pained falsetto "I was a lover before this war." Together, these are enough to justify the record's ominous tone. Though hardly straightforward, neither music nor lyrics are obscure. Instead, emotional dislocations are contextualized for once--blamed on Bush and/or capitalism, actually, which rather than a cop out is almost an analysis. Never rousing and too often glum, the album is carried by its intelligence, integrity and terrible beauty. Difficult but durable music and point but open-ended verbiage that conveys what a bummer it is to struggle fruitlessly with your own political impotence. A-