I was faced with a choice this week, to sit down and review either the brand new debut self-titled album by Stoner Pop humans Dune Rats or the brand new (and debut) album from Tape/Off called “Chipper” both of which were released in the last fortnight. As I sat down to listen to the brand new Dune Rats record I was reminded of a moment I witnessed happening to Thurston Moore in Dave Markey’s 1991 film “The Year Punk Broke” – in this particular scene, towards the end of the film, Thurston Moore is having breakfast and discussing how punk rock has now broken through to the mainstream in new and even more disgusting ways. He speaks about his disillusionment with this new movement of “style over substance” and references that even a band like Motley Crue are singing “Anarchy in the UK” to stadiums of people who just don’t care. The disappointment in Thurston’s body language really describes how crippling it would have been to witness lesser humans, humans with no understanding or respect for culture or history claiming the saving graces of punk rock. This scene accurately describes how I felt when I listen to the brand new album from Dune Rats and it makes me feel sorry for anyone who thinks that this music and this band are in anyway punk rock.
Considering that modern youth culture and Triple J support Dune Rats says a lot about the music world in Australia circa 2014. I think of Skid Row, Motley Crue and Warrant more than I do punk rock. Too much party and not enough arty and I’m sure that I’m just a lone voice with this one but I just get nothing out of this music. The songs are a little bit too squeaky clean to be punk rock or lo-fi and it has more in common with early era Green Day and Blink 182 than something cool like The Stooges or The Ramones or The Saints or even Sebadoh. Clean neat music for clean neat people, the perfect formula for Triple J airplay and pointless hype. When you look throughout history you can always review the music of specific eras to get a feel for the climate of where a culture was at. When we look back at 2014 20 years from now and see bands of Dune Rat’s ilk we’ll be reminded of just how meaningless the pursuit of self-expression became and how designed chaos and brand awareness was the only way to resonate with an apathetic group consciousness that liked their music to be outrageously unoriginal and ready to soundtrack a night of drunken fun. Equality cannot be achieved whilst music like this exists.
It was a bad decision for me to sit down and review Dune Rats so I didn’t – then I switched over and turned on “Chipper” by Tape/Off and instantly fell into a state of relaxed bliss knowing full well that I had entered an environment that was a lot more accommodating to what I desire from music which is a bit of heart, a bit of soul and a whole bunch of sincerity.
From the opening notes of “Chipper” everything is perfect and a little bit bent out of shape with a hiss of lo-fi dust suffocating the ache and swoon of boredom and post-20 year old angst that has graduated to the real bummerhood of adult life. There is a clear difference between the modern pretenders of slacker rock (see above) and those humans who lived through it and have learnt how to harness its style and use it to communicate in a way that is unique to them. It is the sincerity of each individual member of Tape / Off that drives the emotion of “Chipper” and delivers such an instant classic.
The production has the wonderful claustrophobic feel of all those Fugazi records with enough noise to challenge and excite but also enough space and silence to embrace you like a warm hug. It is that Brisbane warmth that radiates and it is a tribute to the healing power of a band like Screamfeeder that we now have something as right on as Tape/Off existing in our town. These songs are very then but still with a potency of now with the dialogue of 1990’s sophisticated guitar rock informing every moment. I still believe that Tape/Off are bigger than there influences and that you can tell that this is a band who seriously respect a lot of different movements of music with the collective sound of the band reflecting that every time they express themselves.
The real joy of this record is the final track “Another Year” which unfolds like a beautiful ode to the graduation all humans make from 29 to 30 and in doing so ceases to give a shit about the world around them. It is a New Year’s Prayer to all the nonsense that frames our existence and that consumes all of the low ego dwellers who like to put their hands in the air like they just don’t care. It is the perfect full stop on what is a fantastic debut album.
In the 2014 and 2015 financial years we’re going to hear a lot of bands claim to be lo-fi slacker independent rock and there are lot of children running around screaming hell fuck yeah and doing their best to be a rock band. The industry will froth and book all sorts of BigSound showcases for the young, the beautiful and the pointless nu-lo-fi guitar rock bands and Triple J will follow suite like the smug slugs that they are. That’s cool and all that but it won’t mean anything if it doesn’t lead people to find bands like Tape/Off who were making interesting guitar music long before this new batch of designed anarchy.
All of those logistics doesn’t really matter because when all is said and done Tape/Off have made the perfect debut album. It is fractured and has that promise that you desire from a band you love. It has managed to deliver but also managed to boycott directions you thought they may have tapped into. It is an album that requires time to digest and it has the warmth of a band that plan to do this for a very long time. After being stained by professional responsibility and having to sit through lesser rock bands this past month it was refreshing to sit through “Chipper” and to hear a band do it right and to deliver a fantastic piece of modern rock music that is a vital edition to the Brisbane underground movement.
Good music is good communication and Tape/Off communicates incredibly well and with “Chipper” they prove just how important they are to stopping the rise of lesser rock bands in this modern climate of brand building.
God bless the fucking lot of them
By: Dan Newton
Bandcamp For Album Via Sonic Masala – http://sonicmasalarecords.bandcamp.com/album/chipper
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/tapeoff
Soundcloud – http://soundcloud.com/tape-off
Official Website – www.tapeoff.net
Bandcamp – http://tapeoff.bandcamp.com/