Going solo: it’s an often treacherous path to take. Sometimes you might be on safe ground (think Brandon Flowers) and other times you could be navigating the stormy seas to find a new sound (more like Kele). With so many of our favourite frontmen forging a path of their own, it’s sometimes easy to forget the other band members, even though they are just as crucial in mapping a course to success.
Dave Sitek of TV On The Radio has ploughed forward, just like his bandmate Kyp Malone to create Maximum Balloon, a project that’s all Sitek’s own without ever forget his TVOTR roots. It’s not a particularly weighty album but it’s all the better for it. Single and album opener “Groove Me” is effortlessly cool, with a simple backbeat and some retro synths held together with Theophilus London’s street smart style and ending with a flourish of brass that would put Mark Ronson to shame. “Shakedown” echoes TVOTR’s funkier moments – such as “Dancing Choose” – and even features Kyp Malone on fine form. Tunde Adebimpe also features on the record, lending his vocal talents to the more serious “Absence of Light”, the LP’s darkest moment.
The album has been criticised by some for using too many female vocalists but actually it works: by spacing out the vocalists in a boy-girl-boy-girl fashion Sitek has managed to combine the grooves of “Shakedown” , “Tiger” and “Apartment Wrestling” with the softer moments from the female vocalists. Little Dragon are as charming as ever on “If You Return” while Karen O makes use of her subtler tones on “Communion”. Ambrosia Parsley is a revelation on the downbeat album closer “Pink Bricks”. Her voice is gentle, hushed and just that little bit affecting, the perfect wind-down after an album pretty much full to the brim with joyous, danceable tunes.
With “Maximum Balloon” Sitek has crafted a wonderful album that will please fans of TVOTR and newcomers alike: it’s instantly likable, has a sophisticated groove and never loses its heart. Take note, wannabe solo artists.
This article first appeared on Faux Magazine Online and was written by… me!