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Tapes n Tapes - Kings College, London, 8/11/2006

  by Anthony Dhanendran

published: 22 / 11 / 2006

Tapes n Tapes - Kings College, London, 8/11/2006


Minneapolis band Tapes 'n' Tapes have drawn frequent comparisions with the the Arcade Fire, but Anthony Dhanendran finds their rowdy blues-influenced sound has more in common with the Black Keys in an impressive show at London's King College

To the untrained eye, the four young men on stage at King’s College Students’ Union tonight don’t look particularly "buff". In fact, the keyboardist, worryingly, resembles Paul Whitehouse’s ‘Brilliant!’ character from the Fast Show. But "buff" is apparently what they are, at least according to one member of the crowd who, somewhat coyly, refuses to give her name. The four are Tapes ‘n Tapes, a Minneapolis band who have been breathlessly compared to last year’s surprise hits the Arcade Fire. In fact, those comparisons are a little misleading. The band are a heavily blues-influenced quartet, with a more rowdy, earthy feel to their music than the more polished Arcade Fire. That’s not to suggest that they’re not professional, though: they rattle through their set as tight as any band. In fact, they took the stage early, which is unheard of round here. Opener 'Just Drums' is anything but that – a melange of cut up guitars and subdued vocals by way of introduction. By contrast, the second song comes across like no-one so much as 90's student-blues merchants Gomez, or at least a slightly rowdier version thereof, particularly when it comes to those harmonic choruses. By the third song, the Gomez influence is starting to dissipate, and the music has moved on to a rocking stomp. While not reaching Lou Reed levels of diffidence, they’re not very talkative. The fourth number, 'In Houston', is introduced as: “I guess it’s about Houston.” Vocalist Josh Grier is a little still for a rock vocalist, but by this point even he has broken out into a kind of semi-dance, a bit like Jarvis Cocker under sedation. 'In Houston' starts slowly but picks up speed rapidly, and by the end of the song we’re all barrelling down a hill, only to come to a very sharp stop with the abrupt end of the song. The mood gets darker from here on in, although things are no less raucous on stage. The Arcade Fire aside, the most apt comparison is probably to be made with the Black Keys. The lid is being kept on the simmering pan, however, it’s easy to feel. At points, the band seem to take on a Libertines-like aspect of being at the helm of a runaway train – the thing that made watching the Libertines so exciting – but each time that happens, order is swiftly restored. That’s not to say Tapes ‘n Tapes are manufactured, or less "real" than other bands. It’s just that you feel they might do well to let their hair down a bit. The band members’ musical ability can be in no doubt, however. The sheer breadth of instruments – a tuba (or is it a euphonium) is produced at one point, by the hitherto side-stage keyboardist. Even if its sound is subdued by the guitars in the mix, it’s a welcome addition to a rock band. If there’s one thing to be said for the band’s control on proceedings, it means that they have enough energy left to not let up even until after the encore has been and gone, some 15 songs after the beginning. It’s an impressive performance, all told, by a band who can play and who have excellent songwriting abilities under their belts. While it may not be the most visceral performance, it’s no less fun. And what did our friend think about our buff entertainers? “It was a winner,” apparently. So that’s that.

Picture Gallery:-
Tapes n Tapes - Kings College, London, 8/11/2006

Tapes n Tapes - Kings College, London, 8/11/2006

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