Just as there are many ways to cope with loss, there are various directions TV On The Radio could have taken their fifth studio album, following the tragic death of bassist Gerard Smith. With its numerous hooks and clean production, Seeds subverts expectations by being a celebration album, one that honours Smith while still looking ahead to the future.
Seeds is full of diverse gems. From the punk-infused ‘Lazerray’ to the almost-synth-pop title track, each recording brings something original to the table. Throughout the album, it’s hard to shake the feeling that TV On The Radio are determined to see the good, while blissfully ignoring the bad. ‘Happy Idiot’, a solid choice as lead single, is a pulsating ode to drowning out the pain after the death of a relationship.
Even in positivity, the band finds moments of introspective melancholy, particularly in the latter half of the album. “So completely in the dark now, I hope the night will last forever” lead vocalist Tunde Adebimpe howls on ‘Winter’, the most straightforward rock track on the record, and one likely to appeal to long-time fans. Ultimately, though, the lasting impression the album will leave is one of prevailing optimism.
Seeds is as close to a pop album as TV On The Radio are ever likely to create. It is cleaner, more polished than anything the group has ever produced, for better or for worse. Gone is the layered production and emphasis on rock of the band’s earlier material.
Occasionally, the more pop-based outings can border on hackneyed, such as the characterless ‘Ride’. The track opens with a soothing instrumental, but soon descends into a generic faux-anthem, one that would not feel out of place on a Coldplay record. Similarly, ‘Could You’, with its corny-yet-catchy riff, feels straight out of the opening credits of a 90s sitcom. Fortunately, these missteps are few and far between.
“Everything’s gonna be okay” Adebimpe echoes on ‘Trouble’, a clear standout, and it’s easy to believe him. TV On The Radio have endured a tragic loss but, as Seeds proves, they’re going to be just fine.