I was all set to write my glowing, ecstatic review of TV on the Radio’s newest album Nine Types of Light, released last Tuesday and occupying a pretty-much unrelenting home in my CD player all week. However, I detoured from these keys for a few fleeting moments to talk to a friend on the phone and then suddenly an incoming text from another good friend and constant silent partner in these pages Mr. Brown, informed me that the band’s bass player, Gerard Smith, died today after a fight with lung cancer.
I was/am crushed.
Thanks to Mr. Brown I’ve been able to follow TVOTR since just about their inception. He was the guy that showed up at my old digs in Beverly (Chicago Southside, not hills) sometime in 200…3(?) with the Young Liars e.p., a six pack in hand and a gleam in his eye saying, “Open one and listen to this track called ‘Staring at the Sun’ – AWESOME”. Like Chuck Berry’s cousin the magical Mr. Brown had found the sound I hadn’t even known I’d been looking for and it was love and infatuation at first spin. Since then I’ve been a rabid TVOTR fan, buying every album and ingesting them, staring wide-eyed in total elation at the instrumentation the band employs in crafting a totally original and ever-evolving sound. TVOTR thinks, they fuzz, they dance and they just straight up enlighten their listeners with layered musical genius that is one part pop, one part rock and two parts experimentation wrapped in Bowie-esque savvy. The band has been a constant source of musical companionship to me and proof in my often waning belief that even in this age where EVERYTHING has been co-opted by the suck police, the elements of intelligent, experimental and god help me FUN indie music doesn’t have to be the baby tossed out with the bath water just so a bunch of irony-obsessed hipsters can put on old 80’s bicycle shorts, sport bad mullet-esque haircuts and try to make ‘noteworty’ music for pitchfork to fawn over. TVOTR does EVERYTHING right and deserves every damn inch of the credibility they receive (and more) and Gerard Smith was part of that. I didn’t know him, don’t know anything personal about him other than how I’ve connected with the music he helped make but one thing is for sure, I’ll miss him.
We will miss you Gerard Smith. Eight days after you helped give the world another beautiful musical gem you’ve left us and all I can say is it will make Nine Types of Light even more special than a week absorbing it into every pore in my body already has. And it is good – mayhap the best TVOTR album since Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes – Nine Types of Light is easily the most vibrant disc the band has done, filled to overflowing with positive energy and optimistic sentiments pertaining to the strange and often dark world we live in. Nine is also slightly removed from that darker edge the band carries from time to time, which is something I wasn’t expecting but especially now, happy to find.
So into that light I raise my glass and say a few words to shepard a friend I’ve never known other than through his music into the great unknown with a wink and a smile and a “damn man, you did a good job with your short time here”.
Gerard Smith, thank You!!!