TV On The Radio have always been one of those groups where studio efforts have always seemed to be about more equals better. It's not to say that it hasn't worked for them, as I've always felt like they've gotten a bit better with each release (starting with their excellent Young Liars EP and progressing through the hilariously-titled Return To Cookie Mountain). Along the way, they've added even more members, arriving at a mean handful on Dear Science. With the addition of more minds (and the usual massive multi-tracking of Dave Sitek), this newest release from the group unfortunately lands with a bit of a dull thud, sounding overloaded and overwrought, with barely any of the sharp outbursts that heightened the tension on past efforts from the group.
The album actually opens with a lot of promise, as "Halfway Home" kicks things off with some huge drums and playful, almost doo-wop vocals before piling on layer after layer and turning into a dense cloud of feedback and vocal harmonies. The album is just kicking things off, though, and instead of punching things up with the almost punk spirit that infected their old work (on songs like "Wolf Like Me" from Return To Cookie Mountain or the massive "The Wrong Way" from Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes), the group instead keeps things rather tame with a load of quiet beats and the usual vocal harmonies and sheer texture.
It's not as if the tempo drags completely, as songs like "Red Dress" and "Golden Age" meld a bit of almost disco pop into their usual sound, but a good portion of the album simply drags during the mid-section. They try to salvage things a bit near the end as "DLZ" mixes some crisp live drumming and brittle synths in to cut through a bit of the haze while "Lover's Day" bursts into a soaring major key over the course of one big buildup and feels like a damn revelation with loads of horns and some downright uplifting melodies. It's too bad then, that a majority of Dear Science bogs down with a ponderous weight that feels more like a bit of a step backwards than a continued progression from the group. If you're a fan, there's certainly stuff you'll enjoy here, but if you're looking for them to take another step forward, this might not suffice.