Seven years later, the beast stirs. In the gap that followed Restiform Bodies’ genre-crushing self-titled LP (and companion piece, SunHopFlat), much did happen, and several records of those times were made. Bomarr holed up in Oakland, mastering his hypno-bounce sound (Freedom From Frightened Air, 2007). Telephone Jim Jesus roamed Europe, collecting etherea previously unexcavated (Anywhere Out Of The Everything, 2007). Passage went solo (The Forcefield Kids, 2004), and then to hell and back. In 2008, the three-headed post-mod monster called Restiform Bodies is whole once again. And, at long last, the RBs drop their official Anticon debut like a sack of analog televisions onto the fractured landscape of modern urban forms.
TV Loves You Back is a dark and dense, art-twisted, New Wave-inflected hip-pop marvel born of our overstimulated era. Musically, it stands alone, which is to say it fits perfectly within the Anticon oeuvre. Strains of ghettotech, crunk, and hyphy twirp and twirl with Eno-like atmospherics and buoyant bass swells, while rapper/songbird Passage warps his vocals over blistering synth. Likewise, the lyrics gallop at a ferocious clip. Like electron shots from a cathode ray tube, they combine to form a deliciously sardonic image of modern living, and break down into constituents that are metaphysically hopeful, socially relevant, poetic, and playful.
Fittingly, opener “Black Friday” begins with 30 seconds of ominous Top 40 rap bluster (crowd cheers and wonky, reverbed “uhhs”), forcing the Restiform tongue through its cheek before launching into a track that traverses burbling synth bounce, doubletime drum ’n’ bass, and free-floating atmosphere. Passage forges the vocals to match—laidback rap, unlikely falsettos, rapid-fire couplets, a chorus of bent melodies—while tempering his words into a poignant evocation of the mind of a mall shooter hitting his prime.
Our narrator too is in top form, next styling over the wamping, squirilly club beat of “Foul,” then navigating the chopped white noise and guitar of “A Pimp-like God.” And when “Panic Shopper” creeps in like a vintage horrorcore tune, painting a QVC-inspired nightmare in stream-of-consciousness strokes (“Look at you vibrating, bent-necked, bowed-head/PS3 building-jumping panic shopper/Launch off the parking garage/In a Tony Robbins murder-suicide with infomercial knives...”), it’s clear that Restiform Bodies have made something as enjoyable as it is topically thick.
“Consumer Culture Wave” details a crux theme: the supplantation of sexual urge with purchasing power. And on “Bobby Trendy Addendum,” Passage adopts a Brooklyn sneer to bang out bitter satire atop a lo-bit mélange. He connects impulse-buying to nightly news fear-mongering here, then traces our need to be placated by prizes to a childhood pastime in “Pick It Up, Drop It.” “Interactive Halloween Bear” is classic Restiform—surging synths, crystalline overtones, bassy blips, snapping drums—overrun by a rich imagery that seems to portend societal collapse onto the living-room couch.
But before all descends into chaos, TV Loves You Back hits back with the six-minute-long climax, “Opulent Soul.” Passage burns through a Gary Numan-esque laissez faire croon, cocksure rhymes, and a distorted Knife-like nastiness while the music intensifies like a thunderstorm of seething digitalia. He crescendos with a 32-bar rap rife with quips (“When Ty says ‘move that bus’/It just cleans my ducts”) and affecting observation (“Round and round goes the collection plate/And ain’t defeat a wicked virus, how it lives to repeat?”), and by song’s end, our hero reclaims his humanity from the bottom of circuit pile.
TV Loves You Back comes to a quiet close with “Ameriscan,” a bittersweet lullaby about cancer recognition technology. It’s an ending that only Restiform Bodies could pull off, but it’s also perfectly apropos for an album so focused on the comforts that bring chaos into our daily lives.
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