Morning Fuel: TV On the Radio - Dancing Choose
Way back in the year 2008, I really didn't get TV On the Radio. I wanted to, but I just didn't understand the appeal. As Pitchfork and all the other music review sites went nuts for them, I just stared in confusion, much like I still do now at latter-day Arcade Fire albums. That's a topic for another day, though.
Part of the problem is that my first exposure to TV On the Radio was as the opening band for The Pixies on their nostalgia-stoking Pixies Sell Out reunion tour in 2004. I was all like "who are these noisy screaming guys with all the sound-effects droning the same guitar chord over and over again?" It wouldn't be the first time or the last time I horribly miscalculated on an opening band due to my impatience. That performance, weird as it was in the DAR Constitution Hall where I saw them with its fancy chandeliers, put me off TV On the Radio for a long time.
Then the buzz built behind the Dear Science album like a fierce juggernaut, yelling "DON'T YOU KNOW WHO I AM?" as I saw it on best albums of the year list through December and January all across the internet. I broke down and gave Dear Science a listen. The first two tracks did nothing for me, the same aimless noise, odd vocals, and droning guitars that bored me to death before.
Then I hit Dancing Choose, and I suddenly understood this band. I understood how the weird horn flourishes fit in, how the repetitive guitar built tension, how the noise and unusual vocals could work together to build something compelling and beautiful. It didn't hurt that the song itself, about a life that seemed devoid of color, built on banality and disappointment resonated with me so much at the time. It was one of the many wake-up calls I needed to put more effort into my writing, and has been a talisman of mine against personal stagnation ever since then. I often listen to Dancing Choose, telling myself "Don't be that guy. Don't be that guy from the song." There's one lyric that has always stuck with me even through all of it: "I've seen my palette blown. To monochrome." It's chilling and so deadly accurate. I do everything I can to fight for that day to never arrive, though sometimes on days when I'm stuck on stalled out metro trains and have 7 hours of meetings scheduled in a single day it feels as though it's closing in.
I can't argue this is the best TV On the Radio track. Others came afterwards in their masterpiece of an album Nine Types of Light that I like more, but this one is always special to me because it's the first one to make me take notice and understand what they were trying to do. The first one where their sensibilities really gelled to me, and one that has made me appreciate their often deep lyricism. It made me look back on even their older stuff with renewed curiosity. So yeah, I got that Pixies opening band wrong. Really wrong.
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