Release Date: Jan 11, 2011
Record label: Ibid
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock
“I am not original,” Tapes ’n Tapes frontman Josh Grier moans dissonantly in the fuzzy, electrified anthem “On and On. ” It’s a funny admission considering the Minneapolis foursome has always been plagued, even when they first emerged as indie blog darlings, by comparisons—they’ve been the yeah-less Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Pavement 2. 0 and drawn plenty from (and criticism for sounding too much like) Pixies, Modest Mouse and anyone else who plays with irreverent lyrics, distortion mics and shout-singing.
You know, maybe Tapes 'n Tapes hit the nail on the head with thier first full length, The Loon, but 2008's follow-up, Walk it Off, hardly deserved the shrug-off it got from many critics and fans. Sure, perhaps bombastic producer Dave Fridmann wasn't the perfect fit, and maybe there wasn't all the giddy genre-hopping of the debut, but those were some good rock songs ("Hang 'em all"? Come on, that song is gold.) But with that shrug-off, this Minnesota band became the epitome of blogosphere boom-and-bust. Lauded out of the gate, and then chastised for not meeting our lofty expectations for a growing band.
After the somewhat overcooked Walk It Off, Tapes ‘n Tapes walked away from their XL deal, letting it expire so they could record their third album, Outside, in their Minneapolis hometown and release it on their own Ibid label. This back-to-basics approach suits the band’s tried and true indie sound -- though they’re not quite as raw as The Loon, Outside’s songs are direct while still leaving T'nT plenty of room to play. “One in the World”'s mischievous percussion and brass reflect how revitalized the band sounds on the album, along with “Badaboom,” which opens the album with rhythms so nimble it would be easy to mistake it for a more down-to-earth Vampire Weekend song.
I like bar food. I like veggie burgers and fries and the occasional (okay, extremely frequent) plate of nachos. I like feeling that when I go somewhere for such food, I can show up looking however I please, that no visual or behavioral state of being (barring unruly and destructive) will be frowned upon. In 2005, Minneapolis’ Tapes ’n Tapes released a record I consumed like bar food — ravenously, insatiably, uninhibited.
The second half of the noughties will always be remembered as a time when blog-heavy music criticism brought to issue the relevance of academic opinion. After much praise from the general public, Tapes n’ Tapes had gained an esteemed reputation regardless of any foul opinion from a superfluous print publication or a hundred word proof master. Their slightly oft-kilter personality and lackadaisical, midwestern likability was enough to cement a stand-in position in a former booming independent rock scene.
You're forgiven for forgetting Tapes 'n Tapes. In 2005, the unknown Minnesota quartet self-released its self-produced, 41-minute indie rock romp, The Loon. A little Pavement, a little Pixes, and a lot of hooks, The Loon was bright-eyed and charming enough to overcome its retread tendencies. Critical buzz built for the band like a brushfire; by the time the record industry convened in Texas for South by Southwest in March 2006, one assumed Tapes 'n Tapes were the next Great American Rock Band.
Are Tapes ‘n Tapes just a flash in the pan? Their 2006 debut The Loon exploded into being with copious amounts of shrapnel that we joyously stood in the path of. Released on the band’s own label Ibid, it was the kind of ramshackle, rough-cut affair, abstract and angular, awaiting its seat alongside feted works by underground giants Pavement, the Pixies, et al. Needless to say, it got many a blogger’s tongue wagging.
Tapes ‘n Tapes released their debut album in 2006, at a time when the music press had finally come to terms with the star-making power of the online hype machine, when every blogger and upstart music mag was looking to pimp the next Strokes or Arcade Fire. It was, in hindsight, a very good time to be a little known Minneapolis foursome with a facility for indie-rock pastiche. And I don’t mean to imply that Tapes ‘n Tapes simply got the hype while the hype was good: Listening to The Loon, you got the impression that these guys had spent much of their adolescence listening to the same indie records, learning Pavement riffs, and deciphering Black Francis’s cryptic tirades as you did.
Outside is an overwhelmingly appropriate title for Tapes ‘n Tapes’ third album. Just like the similarly feted and forgotten Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Cold War Kids, this indie rock four piece were the talk of internet town circa '05/'06. A sturdy South By Southwest showing was followed up by pleasant Pavement-aping debut album The Loon and even a prized contract with XL Recordings.
Oh, the cruel vagaries of aughties buzz-band fate. The Internet tribunal that anointed Tapes ‘n Tapes’ crackling debut one of the Great Alt Hopes of 2005 had largely washed its hands of them by the Minneapolis foursome?s 2008 follow-up album. But T’nT soldier on with Outside, offering a veritable Whitman’s Sampler of collegerock touchstones (the Pixies, Talking Heads, Modest Mouse) in one cannily melodic jumble.