Considering how strong TV on the Radio's debut EP, Young Liars, was, it's more than a little ironic that the band's second EP, New Health Rock, is their weakest work to date. It suffers by comparison not only to the almost frighteningly good Young Liars and the ambitious, less-immediate Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes, but also compared to the expectations generated by all the praise the band has (deservedly) garnered. Of course, these expectations aren't the band's responsibility. However, it's a little disappointing that out of its three tracks, only New Health Rock's title track is entirely original. Even more disappointing -- and odd -- is the inclusion of the album version of "The Wrong Way," Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes' opening track. This is an especially strange decision, since the EP is bundled with some copies of album, and most people that would buy the EP separately probably already own Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes. On its own terms, "The Wrong Way" is still a powerful song, but putting it here makes it seem like TV on the Radio didn't have enough tracks to fill out an EP. It's too bad that the B-sides from the band's recent Staring at the Sun U.K. single weren't added to New Health Rock to flesh it out and give U.S. fans a chance to check out those songs without splurging on an import single. As for the EP's other two tracks, "Modern Romance" -- a version of one of the atypically quiet songs by TV on the Radio's pals the Yeah Yeah Yeahs -- is pleasant, but aside from its distant, distorted drums and squiggly electronics, it's not especially different from the original. Probably unfairly, thoughts of the band's outstanding "Mr. Grieves" reworking on Young Liars come to mind and make this cover sound even more muted. "New Health Rock" itself takes Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes' dense, funky sound and opens it up a little, with mixed results. Though the track's relatively spare production and big, insistent drums complement the band's beautifully stinging guitars and offer the release that the album's slow-burning tension never quite gave, Tunde Adebimpe's half-sung, half-shouted vocals eventually sound more forced than forceful. TV on the Radio is still a relatively young band at this point, so it's not entirely surprising that the demand for new material from them outweighs what they can deliver. However, New Health Rock is just so incomplete-feeling that it probably would have served the group (and their fans) better to have waited and released a more full-fledged EP.
New Health Rock Review
by Heather Phares
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