With a few exceptions, Minneapolis is a rock town that probably could fill a nice sized landfill with the singles, cassettes, and compact discs of highly derivative bands. Now that doesn’t mean that all of these highly derivative bands suck, but it’s important to remember if you happen to be one of those highly derivative bands to not take yourself all that seriously.
One of the worst things a highly derivative band can do is to hire an acclaimed producer, particularly one that doesn’t tread lightly behind the mixing board, to man your sophomore album.
I like Tapes ‘n Tapes. I like Dave Fridmann. And in theory I actually like the idea of the two working together. But there is something about the final product of Walk It Off that does not feel gratifying at all. I’ve tried to separate my own opinions of how the band should have gone into record number two versus the way record number two ultimately turned out.
What Walk It Off demonstrates is Tapes ‘n Tapes reading every bit of their initial hype and considering afterwards that they may be a little more important than they actually are. This means that it has lost every bit of their deer-in-the-headlights appeal found throughout The Loon and replaced it with a record that sounds much more important than it really is.
The best example is “George Michael,” a song named because the guitar part bears a passing resemblance to the ex-Wham member’s own “Faith.” Never mind the fact that “Faith” was probably a lift of some two-chord phrasing itself, the issue is that the band’s cute little working title is the only memorable thing about the song. The title was left on because it looks clever, and that’s a blessing as the song itself is completely lacking in cleverness. It, like much of the album, just stands around anonymously waiting for a fraction of George Michael‘s melodic sensibilities. Or anybody’s, for that matter.
There will be some that point the finger at Fridmann, and perhaps there is some truth to that. Fresh off of the momentum-wrecking second album of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Fridmann provides a rather enabling touch here with TnT, allowing the band to wallow around in aimless abandon, desperately seeking someone to kick them in the ass and work up a game plan.
There are moments when it comes close. “Lines” which combines handfuls of Fridmann’s sonic landscapes with Grier’s geeky personal politics, points to an album that many of us thought would happen when the big budget pairing was announced. But the rest of the album just lingers anonymously with each guilty party (band and producer) waiting for the other side to show some leadership.
Walk It Off is a scatter-shot mess, alternating between old records by The Pixies, Pavement, Echo & The Bunnymen, and yes, even that familiar Flaming Lips drum sound.
You’ll spend the entire album searching for some sentiment of Tapes ‘N Tapes own identity, only to play “identify the influence” instead. While The Loon was guilty of similar complaints, it was done with the idea that these guys did their homework and had the potential of leaving the nest and going out on their own on their next release. So here it is, the next release, and Tapes ‘N Tapes has effectively become a band transparent among the indie landscape, totally forgettable among their peers and ultimately deserving of the roasting they will receive.
Walk It Off plays perfectly into the hands of those sitting at the forefront of indie cynicism, eagerly waiting for a stumble like this. While it is poor enough to warrant a reality check, there are enough decent moments to hold out for hope on record number three.
• Tapes ‘n Tapes – “Cowbell” from The Loon
• Tapes ‘n Tapes – “Omaha” from The Loon
• Tapes ‘n Tapes – “Beachgirls” from the debut EP
• Tapes ‘n Tapes – “50s Parking” from the debut EP
• Tapes ‘n Tapes – “Icedbergs” from the debut EP
• Tapes ‘n Tapes – “Frankfurt” (outtake)
• Tapes ‘n Tapes – “The Futon Fire” (demo)