Soundchecks Music Reviews
Tangled Up! LC03275
review by Jim Steel
Several years ago I came up with a theory that all the good names for bands had been used up. All that were left were non-sequiturs and bad ideas. A friend mentioned this to a mutual acquaintance, who promptly trashed the theory with multiple examples of great unused band names. The mutual acquaintance is now the singer in the reformed Sensational Alex Harvey Band, which must be some sort of weird nominative karma. Curiously, the guitarist in SAHB was once in a band called Tandori Cassette. Everything links up if you look hard enough, but I'm still not a fan of the name.
Forget Cassettes is basically Beth Cameron's operation. They formed as a two-piece and released Instruments Of Action in 2002 before Doni Schroader left to drum for ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead. Cameron recruited drummer Aaron Ford and multi-instrumentalist Jay Leo Philips and recorded this belated follow-up, which has moved away from the simpler, indie sound of the debut. This line-up may now have disintegrated, as Cameron seems to be back working with Schroader. It would be a great shame if this deprives Salt of exposure - this is a complex and rewarding album.
Opener Venis On starts off with a feel of eastern mysticism before jumping into a grungy post-rock riff which quickly changes again and we're off on a cascade of musical imagery. There are more ideas packed into this one track than most bands put into an entire album. Mesmerising.
Cameron's urgent and emotional vocals whip the songs out of the speakers. Mostly the lyrics are about the war of relationships but The Catch is a cry of anguish over the fate of New Orleans at the hands of FEMA. She's no slouch when it comes to handling the guitar either. Bits of her lead playing here are reminiscent of the Dead Kennedys' East Bay Ray. The following track, Nicholas, has the majesty of something from Siouxsie & The Banshees' neglected Join Hands - not vocally, but in the layering of the instruments.
Many of the songs are hypnotic in their presentation. The personal grief of the elegiac Patience, Beth Reprise, for example, feels almost voyeuristic in its intimacy, and it's given the space it needs to present itself without overstaying.
Traces of familiar ingredients can be found throughout the album: The Velvet Underground, The Pixies, the whole Seattle thing, but it is important to state that this is not a derivative album. A list of some of the instruments used here will look funny-ha-ha on the page. Let's see... We have a wurlitzer, a mellotron, a glockenspiel, a trombone, prayer bowls, castanets, a flowerpot (that's what it says here, folks) and other stuff. But - hey - you wouldn't know it from the mix, which manages to preserve the illusion of an effortless simplicity about the sound.
It's a ten-track album, counting the bonus track, Sleeper, and there's not a weak one on it. Highlight? Whichever track you happen to be listening to at the time... Let's hope that poor promotion doesn't screw this album's chances. It deserves much more attention.
for PIGASUS Press