Flicking through the album notes to Seeds, one particular absentee catches my attention. There’s no mention of bassist Gerard Smith, who tragically passed away shortly after the release of Nine Types of Light in 2011. Furthermore, the frenetic energy and vivid colour that resonate through the album mirror a positive attitude that many would find difficult to muster after experiencing such a terrible ordeal. It’s only when you search the album with a fine toothcomb that you come to realise TVOTR have indeed lost a close friend.
At the forefront of the album is fast-paced art rock, baring more energy than Jedward on ecstasy. Over the years, TVOTR have accumulated a rich diversity of layers which have been dropped for Seeds, stripping down to a textbook sound with comparatively minimal production. Lead single ‘Happy Idiot’ powers Seeds with little more than guitar and drums, a texture echoing 2006’s springboard album Return to Cookie Mountain. ‘Ride’ is arguably the finest point on the album, in which a weary piano intro blossoms into ferocious spasms of cascading synth-led euphoria, perhaps reflective of TVOTR’s mood between 2011 to 2014. The aforementioned positivity ceases with the peppering of downcast lyrics throughout the album, most noticeably in ‘Trouble’: “everything’s gonna be okay, I keep telling myself “don’t worry, be happy””, although this too is contrasted with a warming melody chugging the song along.
There’s a complex lesson ingrained in Seeds. Seeds themselves embody new life and fresh starts, a clever metaphor hidden behind the upbeat album. We’ll all experience loss; it’s part and parcel of life, but keep on moving forward, plant seeds (which in this waffling metaphor are loved ones) and you’ll be well on your way. And whilst you do it, be every bit as brilliant as TV On The Radio.
photo: static.guim.co.uk, pitchfork.com