Album Reviews

Tapes ‘n Tapes – The Loon

(XL) UK release date: 24 July 2006

Tapes 'n Tapes - The Loon Crashing forth on the latest wave of Internet hype, Tapes ‘n Tapes are to one generation an incredible new noise and to another the promise that their old favourites from the 80s and 90s didn’t grow old, split up or get fat, but rather remained angry and serrated, and possessed four lads from Minnesota.

With a breakthrough as immediately ear-pricking as the quite fantastic Insistor, the comparisons inevitably came thick and fast, and most were pretty much on the mark: a spot of Flaming Lips oddness here; a smattering of Pavement‘s small town jiggery-pokery there; the following in the footsteps of a certain Clap your Hands Say Yeah.

Other comparisons, however, bear even greater fruit: there’s more than a touch of Frank Black‘s early, Pixies-era dynamics, his occasionally absurd lyricism and perilous snarl (not to mention a slow burner entitled Manitoba… coincidence?). To these ears, though, it is to Modest Mouse that the most significant parallels can be drawn: The Loon gyrates between frantic shout-alongs and down-tempo laments in much the same way their Good News LP did.

But that’s enough of that; onto the music! The Loon is clearly preceded by an awful lot of expectation, and the great news is that it rises to the occasion again and again throughout: from the choppy, Isaac Brock-esque opener Just Drums to the untamed, near-instrumental Jakov’s Suite – a particularly bold album closer – Tapes ‘n Tapes reveal their ability to source from all the right influences without ever crossing the line into derivation.

They have, moreover, the gall to spurn Insistor-fuelled assumptions about their sound with some altogther unexpected moves: Illiad opens with a pirate ship ditty reminiscent of later day Malkmus; Crazy Eights dares to forsake Josh Grier’s considerable vocal (perhaps their greatest single asset); In Houston brings to the crucial halfway point a xylophone and indecipherable sentiments (“And I see high jump kings with roadside stirrups on when I come back to meet the bear”).

And yet this is not unpredictability for unpredictability’s sake. The Loon is also able to boast moments of incredible authenticity: Cowbell, for instance, takes its cues from another decade entirely, sounding like the Modest Flaming Pixies, while 10 Gallon Ascot exhibits subtlety through simplicity, Omaha beats Jack Johnson at his own game and Buckle is a lesson in effective verse-chorus juxtaposition.

Of course, it’s easy to be pessimistic when the whole world bands together in a collective stamp of approval, but sometimes it’s for a very good reason. All hype aside (ours included), The Loon will stand up as one of the best albums of the year, and Tapes ‘n Tapes as a jewel in the American music crown. Trust us – you should believe the hype this time.

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More on Tapes 'n Tapes
Tapes ‘n Tapes – Outside
Tapes ‘n Tapes – Walk It Off
Tapes ‘n Tapes: “I don’t think we realised how much people seemed to be paying attention” – Interview
Tapes ‘n Tapes – The Loon
Tapes ‘n Tapes + Hot Club De Paris + Story One @ Metro, London