Monday, January 26, 2009

TV on the Radio - "Bomb Yourself" from the CD Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes

TV On the Radio Desparate Youth Blood Thirsty Babes CD coverIt's not altogether inappropriate that "Bomb Yourself" is a song at war with itself, a song whose gentle textural backbone is diametrically opposed to its subject matter, a song that soothes and terrifies both at once.

Almost as important as the notes and bolts to TV on the Radio's sound are the spaces in between. Sounds do indeed swirl on top of the pumping dubstep bass; guitars fuzzed out and detuned, the shaky voice of Kyp Malone, inhabiting the nether-octaves. Other guitars, scratchy, and nervously tapped.

But the space between them all is so large, you can hear the wind rushing through the gaps. "Bomb Yourself" is like a sonic sculpture--you think of one of those limestone hoodoos in the National Parks out west, opening themselves up from the inside, a monolith with a soundhole eroded by wind and by time.

In all my experience, the only band that ever sounded this open, this cool, and this spacious was Nice Strong Arm, but even they got a little more claustrophobic once they moved to New York. I'm going to argue that TV on the Radio are informed by their environment. But if so, the boundless windblown sound they manage to conjure even as they work amid the metropolis has got to be their greatest achievement.

Yet this gorgeous, spacious, minimalism they achieve is set off against lyrics that are dire and worrisome indeed. Allmusic says that "Bomb Yourself" is an "antiwar meditation," but I've looked hard for the last hour and I can't find it.

Oh, I'm sure TVotR think war is bad, and I'm sure they're the good guys, but as you grab the words away from the otherworldy harmonies, separate them from the spacy swirl of electronics, all you find is a hint of apocalypse.

Not like the apocalypse you might find in a Metallica song, brought on by Chthulhu or some scimitar-clutching warrior. No, keeping in mind that TV On the Radio were formed in the short aftermath of 9/11, the apocalypse they touch upon is the same one we all worry about, the kinds that New York and Bali and Madrid have seen a share of.

As Dan Aykroyd might say, it's real wrath-of-God type stuff:

Your final fantasy
For your final days
Oh baby it's the infancy
No fucking around, the beginning of the end times is what that sounds like to me.

TVotR aren't even necessarily taking sides in this final dark fantasy. When they tell us that
TV dinner
has overfed your fears
they're certainly not talking about the mujahdeen. It's about us, how we've abridged our own liberties, how we've burned ourselves fighting fire with fire. But unless I miss my mark, the family that's being made and then killed dead is in the Middle East, and the TV is tuned to Al Jazeera.

Fact is, there are folks fixin' for a battle. Not just Al Qaeda and the rest of the Global Jihad on the other end, but also the evangelical right and the PNAC, back here under the flag, and looking out--as TV on the Radio does--over New York Harbor.

I realize that's controversial interpretation, an interpretation that even Mssrs. Adebimpe, Malone and Sitek might themselves take issue with. Blender said the song was about the Iraq War, and we can all get safely behind that, right? We're all against the freaking war. But is it that outrageous for a band born under the cloud of windborne debris left by the Towers to be a little bit nervous as they look around?

I think not, though you're free to differ. But at least if the words might make one nervous, the sounds can still chill you down.

TV On The Radio - Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes - 08 Bomb Yourself.mp3

This file was removed March 9, 2009. If you're still way interested in coming up with a copy of this--and really can't figure out where you might get one--drop me an email and I'm sure I'll be able to figure something out for you.

File under: Combat Rock

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