It’s hard to find a right place to start talking about the new TV On The Radio album, Nine Types of Light. By now, anyone with an RSS feed and an interest in music has at least heard that said album has officially been released, and shared their opinion on a preferred social network with a slew of links to reviews verifying their thoughts.
Well, this isn’t about Nine Types of Light. Sort of. This is actually about the Nine Types of Light film, which the band packaged with the new album. It’s a visual companion to the record that fans could purchase as part of a deluxe edition of the new collection, or simply watch on YouTube the day the record officially dropped. It’s also perhaps the most disappointing thing about Nine Types of Light.
The film is certainly visually striking, and there are plenty of great video-ready concepts that the band runs with in surreal fashion. The sweet “Keep Your Heart” provides the emotional depth needed to illustrate a scene of young, rebellious lovers torn apart, while a brilliant narrative about an L.A.-based zombie exterminator in a state of existential despair perfectly brings out the creepiness of “Forgotten.” With the exception of the “No Future Shock” segment–which focused on a new spin on the “American Bandstand” musical variety show that quickly gets old–most of the individual “scenes” would make for brilliant music videos for their corresponding tunes. Unfortunately, TVOTR had to screw up their video picture show by linking the final two songs with an ingenious plot.
A random collection of music videos is fine. A full-blown narrative-driven film would have been fine, perhaps even preferable. It’s preferable especially considering how the band linked the elegiac “Killer Crane” and the wistful “You” in the movie. As the longest song on the album, the “Killer Crane” segment [which begins at the 39:30 mark] is packed with photos and videos of the band as they play shows, hang out with friends, and go on tour. Like any nostalgia-fueled trip through a photo album, it’s a scene that hits at your emotions, and it’s an affair that is heightened by the lush, moving “Killer Crane.”
At the song’s close [45:30], we’re told that the band decided to quit, which makes the previous six minutes seem even more emotionally devastating. [In reality, they just went on hiatus, but this is a film.] One year has passed, and the group is meeting up at a diner in L.A. for the first time since the split. It’s a spot-on spin on a hilariously awkward reunion hang out that most people who have lived a couple of decades have had the pleasure of experiencing. Each member goes on to discuss their humorous post-TVOTR solo activities: the group’s frontman, Tunde Adebimpe, has his adventures as a wannabe Prince longing for his old band provide the visual experience for “You” [49:17].
Those final entertaining scenes make Nine Types of Light a worthy endeavor, but also show the film as something of a failure in the form. To watch those moments is to wonder what might have happened had TVOTR placed those segments at the beginning of the film and made a story with a plot that stretched from the first song to the last. It’s to know that the TVOTR movie is the most disappointing thing about the entire Nine Types of Light release. Because to witness that short streak of brilliance at the film’s end is to wonder what could have been.