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“Something Keeps Calling Me back to These Crazy Scoundrels Tapes ’n Tapes”

Every time I try to make my music taste semantic, or He** even SPECIFIC, something happens to dash my intention to shreds and I’m left again with a certain inner chaos that seems to echo nature and the violent weather swings endemic to the American Midwest. 

Like Guided by Voices, Tapes ’n Tapes are product of said Midwestern region, calling Minneapolis their home. And also like with Guided by Voices, sometimes their music just possesses this preternatural ability to scratch a certain intellectual itch I have, like a deliverance by way of a laconic admission through a couple crappy little melodies and beats that nothing really matters as much as we say it does. 

The Loon (2005), the debut from Tapes ’n Tapes, is an album that I’ve always enjoyed, and that generally received pretty favorable reviews from the press, upon its release, with a Metacritic rating of 76. Without question, the production is utterly brilliant. Different portions of the album offer such disparate sonic landscapes as grunge, psychedelia, dream pop (like an extra-clean guitar sound resembling something celestial), and, well, “The Insistor,” the most highly-streamed song on the album and a project that materializes as this weird, twisted horny, jealous hoe-down… so like a microcosm of the Midwest, maybe? We’ll see. 

Anyway, amidst the album’s perfect 1-2-3-4 punch which culminates in the brilliant, spookily entertaining faux-instrumental “Crazy Eights,” “Insistor” stands out as the album’s undeniable centerpiece. The drum beat itself is the stuff to boggle minds, with Jeremy Hanson sounding like the arbiter of eight rubber arms as he does things like pummel out this perfect, blistering cadence of rim 16th notes, and generally uphold this swift and bizarrely rustic drum beat that sounds like the Blues Brothers playing “Riders in the Sky: A Cowboy Legend” [1]. The song races along in crazed, horny mania, with singer Josh Grier emitting verbal caterwauls at his lover Kelly: “Kelly / Hold your water tight”… “Is it mine / Or some other ring / That you wear / As we lie in bed tonight”… “I’ll meet you in the grave”. Throughout the song, Grier remains obsessed with this strange lover figure, approaching, honestly, a sort of uncomfortable stalking or fixation territory that might have violated our recent “Me Too” movement. And I think in my mind about a month ago I finally said to myself, “I’m done with that band… they’re just too weird,” only to just yesterday be driving and realize that hey, they reached a level of intensity and musical originality on “Insistor” that you just don’t GET with most mortals you’re likely to encounter on an everyday basis, or on Bandcamp, at least, certainly, within these tired, apparently doomed pop/punk channels in which we’re operating within this post, for all intents and purposes. And yeah, I know about Guided by Voices… Bob Pollard, for all his wit and melodic sense, always kind of sounds like that Bingo-playing uncle that your mom makes you be nice to at family reunions. Josh Grier, when Tapes ’n Tapes are at their most explosive, comes across, virile, stalwart and even intimidating, the type of guy whose girl you probably don’t want to touch in the bar or show, and the type to sometimes supersede our overarching understanding of what indie rock can accomplish, with a missive so tight, maniacal and brilliant as “Insistor.” 

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[1] For anyone unfamiliar, this scene in Blues Brothers 2000 is kind of like the foil to the “Rawhide” portion of the original, thereby essentially allotting the Brothers of always having to fall into one country foray per movie, apparently. 

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