Review Summary: re-submit
If Aziz Ansari’s character Clell Tickle really was responsible for the success of Tapes ‘n Tapes, and for the glowing review their debut, The Loon, received from infamous indie tastemaker Pitchfork Media way back in 2005, then it begs the question: where the *** was he in 2008? A 5.6? Surely that warrants a Columbian necktie, if nothing else.
And if he isn’t, and the writer of said review really did find The Loon, which I would not hesitate to describe as a slightly uneven re-hash of Pixies/Pavement-influenced indie rock, to be worthy of the title ‘Best New Music,’ then I am presented with another question: How did Tapes ‘n Tapes, who were once a promising, if relatively unoriginal, indie band, create such an inferior second record under such superior circumstances? After all, The Loon was recorded in a friend’s basement, without the aid of a professional producer, and Walk It Off, well, does the name David Fridmann ring any Flaming Lips-sounding bells?
Anyway, the album starts out promising: Le Ruse is prime Tapes ‘n Tapes. It moves at a respectable pace and features the same kind of off-kilter catchiness the debut did, but with an added advantage of production that grants each instrument space aplenty. Elsewhere, songs manage to expand on the band’s original sound, which was once defined by straightforward guitar-melodies and yelped vocals (think Wolf Parade with an affinity for the classics) without doing anything really exciting. Headshock, for instance, sends the band careening from a typical, lolling verse into a heavy, Garage-rocking chorus. The hook is there, granted, but the song remains relatively indistinguishable from its neighbors. Hang Them All, the song prior to Headshock, features a similar, rousing Rock chorus, while Conquest, the song after, begins with the same kind of gentle, grooving verse. Even deeper into the album, songs become just plain boring, lacking both the semi-interesting quirks of The Loon, as well as any new found brand of maturity.
And nothing is helped by Fridmann’s production, which becomes grating and headache-inducing as the album progresses. His use of fuzz and crunch as a means to re-create the early 90’s lo-fi Indie Rock sound the band adores makes the album a challenge to listen to and has each song dragging with over-saturation. Tunes where Fridmann is less conspicuous and the band manages to create something truly worthy are surprisingly few and far between. George Michael is one, so is Le Ruse. There is not much else.
To make it abrupt: this album defines the “sophomore slump” for me. Walk It Off combines songs that attempt an idiosyncratic progression, but fail to expand upon things like, say, songwriting, with songs that struggle to capture a bright ol’ Indie Rock flame that was once there. If you’re still sitting in a corner, clutching your Clap Your Hands Say Yeah record to your breast, waiting for the next Wolf Parade album to drop, consider this. If not, don’t.
- Joe Katz