Thursday, 10 April 2008

Tapes 'n Tapes - Walk It Off

2006's 'The Loon' was nothing less than a masterpiece. Its highlights - 'Just Drums', 'Manitoba' and 'Insistor' – were skewed, staggering, wailing. They made mincemeat of the cynics by combining hoedown, lowdown and comedown. It was a case of the hype being nothing more than a pre-amble to a hyperbolic stream of consciousness. So how the heck are they going to follow that up? The process begins by drafting in Dave Fridmann's oh-so-expansive production, middles in a scuzzier, fuzzier, messier sound, and ends disappointingly on the reflection that Tapes 'n Tapes have become less unique, and dull and dreary.

Opener 'Le Ruse' is a generic take on Wolf Parade/TV On The Radio reverie, an inward-looking all too studied exposition on betrayal. 'Time Of Songs' continues on the wrong note – it inconceivably manages loses everything that veered the four-piece towards the edge of aural breakdown. Sure enough, Josh Grier's vocals are still sporadic and conflict-ridden, and Jeremy Hanson's drums provide the plod that Tapes 'n Tapes' listeners have become used to.

Lead track 'Hang Them All' tries to revert to the band's previous offbeat, the disconcerting sound of instruments timbrally and rhythmically at odds with each other, but it feels less crisp and a tad stale amidst a sea of all too muddied production. 'Conquest' is more predictable than any of the band's previous output, and whilst it would've fitted nicely into a small gap on 'The Loon', crying out for balance, it serves only as a plodder here. 'The Dirty Dirty' tries for a garage sound that the band haven't previously attempted, but it's way too sludgy – though it's the first hint at the band actually possessing new ideas, so has to be praised a little bit if only for that. "Where did all the money go" the band repeatedly pose – they may not even face such a dilemma this time around.

'Headshock' plods along way too amiably and feels lacklustre until the admittedly one-dimensional chorus hits home – the problem is that there's no 'in between' - the sound is all or nothing. This is the problem that screams "woah, stop" when anything on 'Walk It Off' even threatens to sound slightly snappy – 'Say Back Something' is most faithful to the more played down moments the band were so prolific at, but it feels depleted and remains in first gear without possessing the tenderness or the minimalism enough to carry it through.

'Demon Apple' is the finest moment on the album, recreating the Pavement riffs of Tapes' finest moments. It hits the nail on that 'strange' tag that the rest of the album aspires to, and feels cleaner than the songs surrounding it. But coming in just over halfway through the album, it's a true test to the listener to get that far in. 'Blunt' is one of many anonymous yet beefier selections which with repeated plays may just bring out the subtleties, and 'George Michael' is so Modest Mouse it hurts. 'Anvil' is the worst moment yet, passing by without even so much as a whimper and setting in stone the frustration that is, dare we moniker, Tapes 'n Tapes' 'difficult second album'.

In short, 'Walk It Off' is unlikely to convert the unconverted and likelier to segregate the faithful. Although the amount of comparison to 'The Loon' may seem a bit unfair, it's simply a huge disappointment when the debut sits so comfortably on the pedestal it created for itself. It's angsty, anxious and consuming, but what it is lacking proves fatal – there's just no hunger.

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