The liner notes to TV on the Radio’s debut album credit multi-instrumentalist/producer David Andrew Sitek as “music-maker.” Not “guitarist” or “singer” or “beat-maker” — “music-maker,” as simple as that.
This accurately describes how this post-punk/dance music sounds: not just simple, but deceptively simple. Based in Brooklyn, the trio uses its keen artistic sensibility (both Sitek — a former Yeah Yeah Yeahs producer — and lead singer/loop-maker Tunde Adebimpe are visual artists as well) to create music that’s invitingly easy precisely because its creation was so difficult. Which is the case with most great art: It’s easy to love because it took so much love to make. Babes innovatively stitches myriad dynamic sounds together, built on sparse arrangements of electronics, guitars, and beats, guided by neatly laid-out vocal harmonizing.
Following 2003’s buzz-igniting debut EP Young Liars, this full-length finds Sitek (whose vocals are often compared to early Peter Gabriel) taking a different direction, opting against the EP’s watery feel for a tighter sound. “The Wrong Way” opens with a droning but powerful and immediately engaging builder, featuring grinding, repetitive riffs surrounded by a lovable bundle of screaming, spastic horns. The a cappella “Ambulance” bounces on a series of baritone dom, dom, doms broken every now and then by a falsetto cry, while closer “Wear You Out” is the funkiest offering, with a strutting bass line, thrusting beat, and deep R&B croons. Finally, the Young Liars hit single “Staring at the Sun” is reprised here for good reason: The catchy Fall-and-New Order-like dance number rushes with the heat of a fever. Though the credits may suggest otherwise, these guys don’t just make music. On Babes, they invest a lot of love and come out with a simply compelling work of art.