Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Album Review: Tame.. Tame and Quiet: Tin Can Communicate


(Due to some miscommunication between myself and DL over the rating for this review, I posted the wrong number of stars. Someone asked in the comments why the album was only rated 31/2 stars despite the positive tone, and the reason was that it wasn't. It was supposed to be 4 1/2. Sorry for the confusion everyone. SR)

If you were to believe the local press, you might think Tame...Tame and Quiet is inaccessible, overtly complex, difficult, or even "lo fi." But listening to their record several times a day for the past week has left me wondering why anyone would draw such conclusions. Could it be the limited palate of the writers? Well, that's always a safe assumption when dealing with the local music press, and a quick look at some of the photos that accompany local features and album reviews often reveals bands with slightly bemused looks on their faces that just seem to say "Yeah, we know we're about to be completely misrepresented but hey, at least they're writing an article about us!" Yes, it's take what you can get when it comes to traditional local music journalists, but you can't completely blame the pencil pushers, seeing as how their heads are usually flooded with deadlines and thoughts of scoring a free copy of whatever soon-to-be released record they think they're above paying for. And although each little cog in the rusty guts of the music industry does serve a purpose of some kind, it's been just painful to read so many articles painting Tin Can Communicate as some kind of undecipherable slab of low budget noise, because it most certainly is not.

From the opening chords of the album, the quality and attention paid to each detail is obvious. Matt Barnhart's water-clear recording job leaves every bit of sheen on each cleanly plucked note and every bit of grime on each distorted down-stroke. It's the opposite of "lo fi," a term that is completely inapplicable when you're talking about a state of the art studio like the Echo Lab and several hundred dollars a day being tallied at the end of each session. This is no bedroom studio/apartment rocker digital hack job by any means, but is it possible that a writer could mistake a non-4/4 time signature or non-blues based guitar part as lo fi? Yes. It's possible. This kind of mistake has happened for years, but I thought most people in the Wiki Age had gotten away from it. I guess not. My point is that this is an unusually good recording for a local band, and to peg it as the opposite seems absurd. Even the CD art looks like an expensive print job, only it's missing something: the self-important gleam of a crudely designed record label logo. This means the band footed the whole bill themselves, which is increasingly less common in an era when most people are content to hustle free mp3's online (and who could blame them?). Despite the higher cost, the attention to quality and detail does say something about a band's dedication to their vision, whether there is outside cash involved or not, and I can respect that.

The music also reflects this dedication in its seemingly endless layers of texture and melody. This is an undeniably catchy record that successfully avoids the trappings of most catchy albums by taking time to sink in and allow subtleties to make an impression. Track lengths vary from about three minutes to seven and a half, and with such prog rock track times, its fairly easy to see why some people might assume it's an intimidating listen. But how intimidating can it be when hand-claps are present (as there on the track "Blank Checks on Clean Slates")? Anyway, I did worry at first about what I would make of the Tame...Tame and Quiet full length: they are an impressive live act to be sure, but there's always a feeling that the recorded document might not convey the power of their performances. And although they do seem more gentle on CD, sometimes the lighter moments are actually the highlights, as "Go Get The Ghost" in particular has a dreamy weightlessness that translates very well.

Some of the lyrical alliteration and the intricacy of the wordplay found on the album does border on being overbearingly clever at times, but even that minor complaint wears off after repeated listens. After all, the narrow "I love you/I hate you" spectrum of rock lyrics might sound a little simplistic next to all of these subtle guitar parts and shifting rhythms. The busy guitar playing found throughout the album wraps itself in tentacle-like form around every dynamic drum beat, partly out of the necessity of filling the void left by the lack of a bass player, which is something you might not have even noticed if so much hadn't been made of it. But as technically proficient as the guitar playing is, it doesn't veer into the pointless string bending showcases that you might expect from a band that obviously practices for long hours and spends up to a year working on a single song. There is no wasted space and the playing tends to be melodious and memorable, with all the avant flourishes shining through in the form of song length and time signatures more than anything else. Most of the singing and guitar playing wouldn't be out of place on a lot of popular indie rock records from the last ten years, and the well pronounced and properly finished sentences and verses remind me of some of the singing from Andy Cohen on Silkworm records, though that band's music is much different otherwise.

Tame...Tame also unexpectedly avoids most of the annoyingly meandering jazz rock trappings of their predecessors (Karate, for instance), with only the beginning of "What You Have Read" sounding like it's going to repeat itself into Chicago Post-Rock limbo just before it's saved when it all comes together, singer Aaron Bartz mumbles a line or two, and the song finally kicks in. There are smart little moments like this sprinkled throughout the album, from the unpredictable descending chord progression at the end of "Heroic As It Is" to the dramatic transitional thrust of "Cursive or Worse", probably the best composed piece of music on Tin Can Communicate. These songs have been stuck in my head for days, as much as any twee indie record, and even if this group's approach is sophisticated and devoid of any tossed-off open chord ditties, to say that there is pop songwriting technique at work here is hardly an insult.

So I'm at odds with the chorus that would try to convince you that Tame...Tame and Quiet is somehow so cerebral that they might be ungraspable. The band themselves might even disagree with me considering the last line of the opening track is the repeated declaration of "I am not for everyone." But as I listen back to the double-tracked vocals, with each word so clearly enunciated over pleasant guitar melodies that eventually pull an old Glam Rock stop/start showoff trick that I once heard on a Roxy Music album, I'm not so sure that's a valid statement.


(Rating is 4.5 out of a possible 5 stars)

Labels:

64 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Q: How do you know you're reading a DL review without scrolling down to see who posted?

A: When you've already ready read 500 words and still don't know what the band sounds like!

2:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that TTAQ could have made a much better decision on the font. Haven't listened to the cd yet. But that was my initial impression.

7:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Q: What does "already ready read" mean?

9:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed on the production - it's not lo fi or muddy at all. Instrumentally, it's well done.

The only part that strikes an off note with me is the singer - lyrically, vocal delivery, vocal tone. Not that it's bad in and of itself, but it doesn't fit well with the rest of the music. Instrumentally and mix-wise, everything meshes together well, but then the vocals - they're just not right for the group, and the lyrics are clunky on top of these great arrangements.

Personally - I hear an Andrew Kenny type vocal being a good fit, but that's just my taste.

Not that it can't get better, and it grows on me the more I listen, but as it stands now - that's my 2-cents.

9:42 AM  
Blogger Lars said...

Where can we hear a demo track?

10:10 AM  
Blogger Anaheim said...

I have to disagree, anon 9:42, I think Aaron's vocals are one of Tame...Tame's strongest features. Amongst all the crazy rocking and complicated guitar lines, his clear and clever melodies add just the right touch.

10:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this a review of the band or the author's view of how other writers view the scene?

Let's stay focused and review the album and not where it was recorded and how much they spent on it, etc...

If the first half of the review was removed you might have something.

I give this an ANON grade of C-

10:36 AM  
Anonymous oveo said...

Everyone listen to JRACULA now!

www.myspace.com/jracula

it's bartz's band w/ jana hunter and it totally kicks ass in so many ways.

10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://www.myspace.com/tametameandquiet

The last two songs on their player are on the album "Tin Can Communicate".

10:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seems you like the album. why only 3 1/2 stars out of 5?

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The album is better than the review.

Looks like the review fell into the exact problem it tried to avoid, in regards to the bands view of "at least it's an article".

11:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What exactly would a 5 star album be? I think this rating thing doesn't make sense.

1:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about this review made sense?

1:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think i'm surrounded by a bunch of fucking critics. It's goddamn Generation Armchair Critic and I don't like it anymore.

Motherfucker.

2:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

who thinks this is mindblowingly technical, or that theres crazy time signatures, or lo fi, astonishing, i cant think of a more basic(not necessarily in a bad way) indie rock band. I find it too be very safe, but maybe thats just my standards and im a total dick/artfag. I also think that 5 minutes into one of their songs it begins to lose its charm/quirk/personality and by the end of the set im bored to tears even though there a incredible band! A little danger in the sound could deffinately beat down the monotony and make them one of my favorite bands doing things right now!!

2:04 PM  
Anonymous oveo said...

"Anonymous said...
I think i'm surrounded by a bunch of fucking critics. It's goddamn Generation Armchair Critic and I don't like it anymore.

Motherfucker.

2:03 PM"

get off the internet, get on yr bicycle, go for a ride, enjoy the fresh air, buy a guitar, learn how to play, make some songs, enjoy life, play some shows, read a book, take up running, take up walking, go on a road-trip, do some hiking, go swimming, go fishing, eat some ice-cream, get yr own blog, etc etc etc

in other words: quit bitching and do something about it!

2:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

blah blah blah...jesus.

2:23 PM  
Blogger stonedranger said...

hey... whadda ya know? 223 is one of the same cry baby dumbasses that bitch about everything on here.

Got anything else aside from bland, brainless not funny insults buddy?

2:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just did do something about it, oveo. I called it out. I think we're ALL way too critical of people who are probably just trying to have a good time.

I'm now going to eat, and then take a shower, and then go to the post office, and then the library, and then.....


And when I said "Motherfucker.", it wasn't directed at all of you, it was just a statement of frustration.

2:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kinda' like when Mr. Orange says: "Motherfucker. I'm tryin' ta watch The Lost Boys."

:)

2:37 PM  
Blogger stonedranger said...

235: I'm pretty sure I speak for the majority when I say that I have no idea who or what you were talking about in the first place. care to expand/explain?

2:38 PM  
Blogger Sam Machkovech said...

What's with the premise of this review? Take a look at the following page (which, conveniently enough, has song samples and info on how to order for the curious):

http://cdbaby.com/cd/tametamequiet

As far as I can tell, that's every review the band's had up until yours. Are you so sure about this "inaccessible" cred issue?

Still, glad to see the album get some appreciation here.

3:42 PM  
Blogger Defensive Listening said...

From Bigdlittled (written by Jasun Lee):

"discordant"

"sounds more like a clinic in music theory than an actual song"

"While at times it can be a tough listen"

Sam, these three words or phrases are from the review on your website. They imply inaccessibility and I would never say any of these things about this record. Similar things were said in other reviews and I felt that it was somewhat misguided. That's all I was trying to say. What's with the premise of most of your reviews? And CDBaby is a business. They are in the business of selling cd's. That's why they've provided song samples and how to order for the "curious." I'm not trying to peddle cd's on here and that's why I'm not as helpful, though I admit there could be more links. Guess you'll have to do some homework.

4:06 PM  
Blogger stonedranger said...

furthermore:

From the star telegram:

"TTQ's noisy guitar adventurism, which generates comparisons to Sonic Youth and King Crimson, doesn't fit in with a lot of what's going on in the local music scene."

From Ft. Worth Weekly:

"The band’s intelligent yet intentionally lo-fi hum questions the line between progressive and popular music."

4:15 PM  
Anonymous jwm said...

FACTS!

4:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe lofi means something else than a guided by voices 4track song nowadays?

5:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you're a real jerk, stonedranger. It's apparent that you enjoy randomly picking on people like Marnie Stern on a public blog that is read by hundreds of of people daily. That was a smooth one.

Also, how could you possibly question that most everyone on here isn't an armchair critic? See: 7:58 AM, 9:42 AM, and 2:04 PM. It's hilarious really how everyone is so fucking critical of bands on here. Bands. People trying to have fun/express themselves. And you just analyze it and rip it to shreds and write a book about how great it is, shoving it down all our throats until the last thing in the world we want to do is see the band perform.

Do you get what i'm talking about now?

2:35 PM

5:55 PM  
Blogger stonedranger said...

well if you're so happy-go-lucky, why in god's name do you read this blog (seemingly all the time from the tone of your comment), and why do you care what I say? And if you're so against criticism in any form, why do you feel the need to come on here and tell me what a jerk I'm being and how much my blog sucks?

Its hilarious really how you're so critical of bloggers on here. Bloggers. Someone just trying to have fun and express himself. And you analyze what I do and write comments about it, shoving your negative opinion about how I'm too negative down everyone's throats until the last thing we want to do is read the comments on this blog.

Do you get what I'm talking about?

6:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

2:04:
I agree. More danger needed. It's (like? or is?) most prog-rock, different but safe.

7:20 PM  
Anonymous jwm said...

yeah not all prog rock bands can sound like this heat

7:45 PM  
Anonymous jwm said...

btw, I LOVE TTXQ
that last comment had nothing to do with them.

I wouldn't even consider them "prog"
not in the slightest.

7:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're right, stonedranger. Thanks!

7:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jracula does kick some ass.

8:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, the reason we all read this blog is to see how it gets ripped apart in the comments section.

9:48 PM  
Anonymous ttxq said...

What is this "danger" element a couple of people have spoken of? I can see the safeness in some of what we do, but I think it's there more as a sense of restraint, so that not every song we write is straight balls-to-the-wall or completely mellow. Just confused as to what people view as elements of danger in music at large.

Thanks for the review fellas! And for all of your comments, one way or the other.

For those interested, some upcoming shows:

After you all go kiss your mommies,
Sunday May 13 @ Hailey's
With Peter And The Wolf and Cartright

Saturday May 25 @ SHQ
With Goodnight, Fish and Super Love Attack

10:15 PM  
Anonymous ttxq said...

And, oh yeah, Jracula does kick some ass. Glad to be a part of it. We'll try and put something together around here after Jana circumnavigates the globe.

10:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This Heat = more dangerous. See?

8:36 AM  
Blogger aaron said...

5:55-

I'm a musician and I criticize all the time. Especially joke bands.
So, I guess I'm a sideline or on-the-field critic?
There is a difference between randomly ripping something on a bad day and expressing a negative opinion on something you feel is sub-par artistically.
I also love TTXQ.

9:23 AM  
Anonymous jwm said...

aaron:

I don't think that criticizing a joke band is really criticism at all, it's more like participating in the joke!

1:27 PM  
Blogger aaron said...

you get it!

1:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The distinction between joke bands and serious ones is usually made by those who take themselves a bit too seriously.

Just being in a band is a joke. If you're in one, you're the butt of it. Just ask any musician. If they say otherwise, they're either deluding themselves or you.

2:52 AM  
Anonymous jwm said...

2:52

you got pig's blood dumped on yr head at yr prom didn't you

9:18 AM  
Blogger aaron said...

2:52
I think there's a distinction between bands having fun playing music they want to play and bands with fame on their minds.
Musicians make your sorry life better.
Thank us, motherfucker.

You got a little pig blood... right... oh almost.. right... there.

Nope.. to the left..

No your left...

9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you magicians. I'm in a band, too...hence pig blood.

Children and animals laugh at you.

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think "danger," is responding to your own band's review, in the comments section of WSJR.

10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a slippery slope.

11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Tame...Tame and Quiet is very, very boring. They're not really breaking any new ground and not very good at doing the same old indie rock noodling thing that thousands of other bands do either. I'm surprised that We Shot J.R. would do such a long article about such a boring band, really. I guess not a lot is happening these days.

Yeah, they don't just need to be "more dangerous", they need to grow some BALLS.

4:52 PM  
Blogger aaron said...

Aaron has a little baby, so he DEFINITELY has balls.

5:07 PM  
Anonymous jwm said...

4:52 should probably GROW SOME BALLS and stop posting bullshit anonymously just for the sake of pissing people off.

that's a novel concept...

6:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nope. Just telling it like I hear it.

4:52 PM

6:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And who the fuck are you, jwm?! You're just as anonymous to me as I am to you, so get off your fucking high horse.

6:44 PM  
Anonymous jwm said...

at least my signature isn't a fucking timestamp that CHANGES EVERY TIME I POST!
but really, you get off it.

btw, I'm sure there are several people that are reading this who know EXACTLY who I am.

so what if you don't.

7:06 PM  
Anonymous jwm said...

sorry for the negative tone of my post btw, I just find it irksome that you would actually tell ttxq to grow some balls when you can't even say that under any semblance of your own name.

7:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JWM's 7:09 comment was perfect.

8:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We Shot J.R. supports anonymous posting.

9:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

4:52 is Harry Houdini. JWM is Jimminy Wendell McCracken. Duh.

Time for a public duel within the city square.

Billy Barty

10:06 PM  
Anonymous ttxq said...

Well, I guess I've upped our danger quotient then by posting twice on a review of my band's CD. We're surely on our way now!

Lars posts on his bands projects and write-ups all the time, and I think it adds to the explanation and discussion of the project at hand. I would have sat idly by, but I just wanted a little clarification of terms.

And why the fuck would I not make a comment? I'm not bitching about anyone's interpretation of if we're ground-breaking or boring. We could all care less.

This is one of the few chances one can have to listen to and respond to criticism, positive or negative, of a review of a finished product. If you sent your CD to some publication that reviews CD's, it's the reviewer's opinion you get to read, and not much else past that point. I simply asked for clarification of what "danger" is, and no one has responded to that yet.

Now I'm at the point that I have to ask what "balls" are, as ridiculous as that sounds.

12:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude...you don't even know what balls are. Give up now before it's too late.

Lars can usually back his shit up btw.

And haven't you ever heard the expression: "Never read your own press."? It's very, very good advice.

5:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And haven't you heard the expression, "If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say it at all." It's very, very good advice.

6:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No shit. Call of the dogs, 5:25...give the dude a break.

8:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds good and well played but ultimately predictable and limp, just needs some out-of-the blue spice. Pizzazz. Kicker. Better?

9:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

5:25 is a dog's vagina.

2:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

9:24 Sounds like dconstruction.

10:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ant farm!

9:31 PM  

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