Thirty seconds into Return To Cookie Mountain and it’s easy to grasp that TV on the Radio are doing something different. Essentially, all of the sounds and idiosyncrasies that were present on Desperate Youth, Blood-Thirsty Babes are here—but something is different. There’s a seriousness that pervades these songs which previously just hovered inconsequentially in the massive sound. On the opening track, “I Was a Lover,” Adebempe sings “I can see clearly: round hole/Round whole square peg don’t fit.” It’s this clarity that gives the album it’s most poignant moments.
“Province” sets David Bowie’s beautiful voice inside other chanting vocals urging listeners to courageously charge into the dim, bleak future; it’s clear that TVOTR aren’t ready to give up their political views any time soon. But where Staring at the Sun took on a more metaphysical theme, Cookie Mountain’s songs undulate in more earthly glory. But this is not to say that the album is strictly perfunctory or topical.
This is a band, mostly, that couldn’t have written songs like this two years ago. They are more of a collective now, with David Sitek, Tunde Adebimpe, and Kyp Malone seemingly outsourcing their ideas one to another and to the other members of the band. The songs display the benefits of this in their lushness and complexity of sound. While at times, the listener can be bombarded with a cacophony of noise and violence, these moments, after repeated listens, become subtler and more refined. For Adebimpe, and perhaps the listener as well, these moments melt into focus—into a clarity of the whole.