TV on the Radio is a band about which I know very little outside of the fantastic music they create. But after Rain Machine, I feel that I know singer/guitarist Kyp Malone personally, that I shared some genuine time with him. Malone’s voice is strikingly, harrowingly bluesy here. To some degree, he always sounded this way, but Rain Machine cuts out the rock-star strut, bleeding away anything you could call indie, rock n’ roll, or disco and making him sound more vulnerable and exposed.
Rain Machine takes its time to unfold. “Driftwood Heart” sways perfectly, ending with the soft crashing of ocean waves. The music is utterly hypnotizing, carrying you out to sea until you finally look around and realize you’re some place you’ve never been before. The lyrics, when decipherable, are potent, but the music communicates even more. On “Love Won’t Save You,” Malone repeatedly screams the song title while wildly strumming his acoustic guitar, as if each time cuts him deeper.
Whether it’s the subconscious combination of the titles Bone Machine and Rain Dogs or something about the geographically expansive origins of all of Malone’s musical ideas (bluegrass, folk, and rock as well as African and Middle Eastern influences), Rain Machine gives off a misty mystique reminiscent of Tom Waits. In certain corners of music snobbery, that’s a compliment of the highest order.
Despite the mountain-sized success of TVotR, I was still taken by surprise by Rain Machine. TVotR is a band that, with last year’s Dear Science, declared they were capable of anything under the sun, and just a year later to the day, comes an album from one of its members that manages to be completely unpredictable. The album opens with the rumbling, tribal fury of “Give Blood,” and somehow, via some madman’s twisted musical roadmap, ends with the epic, twangy, crazy-man-on-a-porch-with-an-old-guitar “Winter Song.” Like TvotR’s music, Rain Machine answers all the important questions for you. All you have to do is listen.