Review Summary: An indie/lo-fi classic.
I’m going to have to just put it out there: Eric’s Trip’s 1993 debut, Love Tara
, is probably my favorite album of all time. For the last year, I’ve listened to my older cousin’s worn copy of the record every single day and every single night, waking up the faux-shoegaze blare of guitars that begins “Follow” and falling asleep to Rick White’s somber yet hopeful voice and beautifully strummed acoustic guitar on “Behind the Garage”. When that disc became so worn that it wouldn’t even play without skipping or oddly screeching white noise, I began playing my iPod rip of the album daily. This album warmed during the winter months and calmed during the summer. Quite honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever liked any album as much as I’ve liked this.
This is probably why I’ve held off reviewing Love Tara
. Creatively, there isn’t really anything too mindblowing or groundbreaking about this album: just fifteen lo-fi grunge/indie tunes that alternate between tender and emotional acoustic compositions to raucous rockers. I can see people dismissing this raw debut as too simple, too depressing, which it may be. I hope that just because you see a five at the top of your screen, you’re not hoping for this to be some sort of amazing revolution. This might not hold the same water that it does with me with you as well.
But don’t worry: Love Tara
is still a very easy record to love, if you can get past its moodiness. And Love Tara
is indeed extremely moody, switching from dangerously depressing, especially on the static-y guitar freakout “Belly”, where Rick White sings in a low, melancholy tone against the wail of guitar feedback, to a more hopeful and positive mood, which is found on the one-minute instrumental “June” and the more filled-out “Spring”, which has a simple acoustic guitar riff that can get stuck in your head for days. Overall, however, the mood is somber and melancholy, especially lyrically. Rick White was suffering from a split with Julie Doiron when this debut was made, and Doiron just happens to be Eric’s Trip’s other vocalist and main songwriter. Not since Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours
has so much inter-band drama and emotion been parlayed into one album, and the songs are strengthened from this displayed emotional fragility. Vocally, Doiron and White aren’t much different from one another: they both usually never strain themselves singing, and most of the vocals in general--especially anything White sings--never get louder than a strong whisper. Doiron has more range than White does, and her shining moment comes on “Blinded”, one of the heavier and best moments on the album. The song begins with thirty seconds of stereotypical lo-fi ambience, and then gathers itself and a grungy riff begins to play. When Doiron comes in, you can barely hear against her against the guitars. On her second verse, she’s louder, but still not loud enough, but her voice keeps gathering, and the effect is near suffocating. Finally, she screams out, finally being heard fully, yet still underneath the feedback, and then track speeds up to a point where it ultimately collapses upon itself, only to gather itself again for a good minute of riffing before finally ending, leaving you collapsed, exhausted.
While Doiron holds claim to the best song on the album, this is almost clearly White’s personal expression. Doiron has only two solo songs on the album, with the rest leaving room for White to spew his tales of twisted love and heartbreak. Tracks such as “My Room”, a forlorn composition with some of White’s more desperate singing, seem as if the rest of the band doesn’t even exist. When White isn’t singing desperately, his lyrics are desperate, as shown when he sings lines such as “It’s my confusion, not yours/I just get confused that the feeling’s yours”. White can take what seem like the most cringe-worthy of lines and make them flow naturally, all due to all the genuine emotion he releases through his singing. And on the rare beautiful opportunity, he’ll release that emotion through a duet with his ex. These duets are easily some of the better parts of an album that is pretty much goddamn perfect throughout. White’s and Doiron’s soft voices complement each others perfectly when sung together, best shown off on “Follow”, a high-speed garage rocker where each vocalist gets their own headphone, filling your head with the same lyrics that feel as if the two are telling their own separate versions of the same sad, sad tale. At other times, White and Doiron split up verses, such as on “Stove”, a slow-burning acoustic thumper where White and Doiron spew their own views on the same tale, Doiron coming off as cynical, White as desperate. It’s a beautiful effect, but you also feel as if it’s more than just an effect: it’s a look at the two’s fragmented relationship.
may chronicle a heartbreaking and head-splitting breakup between two divided souls, but, as with every breakup, there are more players than just the two splitting up. In Love Tara
’s case, it’s Chris Robinson, the lead guitarist, and Mark Gaudet, the drummer. While many of these tracks, especially the acoustic ones, seem to be of the more singer/songwriter sort, there’s more to this band than just White and Doiron. Robinson isn’t the greatest guitarist you’ll ever hear, but his all-encompassing riffs are more than enough to do the job. Gaudet is more obviously skilled; he works almost like Gospel’s drummer does (the random, nonsensical comparison of the day), holding the base down with his steady and even at times technical beats. This album might be Julie Doiron’s and Rick White’s show, but without their other band members, Love Tara
wouldn’t be anywhere near as perfect as it is.
ends with “Allergic to Love”, brilliantly placed behind the soul-draining mindfuc
k “Blinded”, and the track is easily the happiest and least-depressing one found on here. White, who for an album’s length sings lyrics about hiding away from his former lover, about the pent-up frustration and the hidden feelings he has for her, says “I’d like to talk to you/I’d like to let you know how and when I follow you/Just what I’m thinking and why I love you” to open the track off. The hopefulness and the positivity found within the track is carried with the listener when finishing this album. Love Tara
, emotionally at least, isn’t the easiest thing to listen to, as the raw confessionals and at time ear-splitting moments of guitar feedback, along with that sketchy lo-fi production, can all build up on someone who is already down to begin with. But this is an album one can call their own, an album that you can sing along with when jovial, emphasize with when sad, be thrilled with, and just plain enjoy. Its influence has been shown through many lo-fi troubadours to this day, ranging from the brass with Phil Elvrum, the main force behind indie heroes the Microphones, to the slightly less brass, like power-pop quartet Sloan, who has covered the band’s songs in concert. People like these (and me) have already heard and loved this album. It’s your turn.