Tapes 'n Tapes | 4.11.08 | Chicago

By: Cal Roach

Tapes 'n Tapes :: 04.11.08 :: Metro :: Chicago, IL

Tapes 'n Tapes from Maximum Entropy
The last time I saw Tapes 'n Tapes, at the Abbey Pub in May of 2007, they were still hungry. The hype had long since died down because they had bowled everyone over at SXSW in 2006, and their lauded debut, The Loon, was old news. But, the band was still clearly eager to impress as they tore through a stunning set, which was bolstered by a few brand new songs that sounded raw but promising.

In the year since, the group finished its second full-length, Walk It Off, which was released April 8 to mixed critical reaction. While the album is ostensibly an attempt to better represent the band's live sound, the performance at the Metro suggests that that might not be the best strategy any more given the corresponding lack of energy and excitement from a band that was brimming with both a year ago.

The confines of the Metro were the first problem. While the venue has hosted many legendary performances (perhaps most famously the "final" Smashing Pumpkins show in December of 2000), and deserves a ton of credit for bolstering the music community in Chicago, it is one of the most logistically unsound venues imaginable. The flat balcony is particularly confusing, allowing for potentially two or three rows of craning necks and fifteen feet of unusable space behind them. The main floor is walled off from the bar area, squeezing pockets of spectators out into the corridor like sausage from a meat grinder. To top it off, the sound in the Metro is invariably muddy and overdriven, but this almost made sense given Tapes 'n Tapes' new, belligerently roughhewn aesthetic. Venues like the Metro get by because underground bands don't have the luxury of caring how good they're going to sound in different rooms; they have to play wherever they can get fans to come out to, and hooking up a headlining gig at the Metro was a victory in prestige for the band, if not in musical terms.

"Jakov's Theme" was a great choice to open the set, but it was a sloppy rendition and after the initial burst of energy the song never gained back its momentum and ended awkwardly. The barrage of new material that followed stuck pretty close to the album versions, but even murkier. Songs like "George Michael" and "Conquest" don't boast much intensity to begin with, but "Le Ruse," one of the album's most raucous tunes, actually lost steam live and "Headshock" fell completely flat, an unintelligible mess. Even when the band returned to its older material, the songs seemed to have regressed to primitive forms of themselves, but with no primal energy. "Just Drums" just plodded along, directionless, though "Cowbell" was actually disjointedly fun though still clumsy. It was as if the band, possessed of such melodic finesse, was willfully dumbing itself down to a generic garage clang.

The highlight of the set came unexpectedly during "In Houston," a song that I hadn't perceived much potential in, but the band suddenly came ferociously alive, out of nowhere. It wasn't really until the end of the song that I fully realized how dull the set had been until then. "Omaha" felt natural even in the distorted echoes that filled the room, and it had the crowd swooning and singing along. Following this, the throng thinned out a bit, and the band rounded out its set with some of its best songs, "The Dirty Dirty," "Insistor" and "Demon Apple," all adequately played but lacking the flare for dynamics this band is surely still capable of. Overall, Tapes 'n Tapes performed with the swagger of a band that knows it's already won people over. Unless this show was an anomaly, these guys need to relearn what it's like to have something to prove.

JamBase | Chicago
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[Published on: 5/15/08]

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knibbs Thu 5/15/2008 04:12PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I've long been wary of bands that think they're better than they actually are and this is one of the bands that was lauded by Pitchfork - they were even hyped on the Human Giant skit show a couple of years ago. It sounds very much like the Cold War Kids show I went to (also at the Metro) a couple of months ago.

Marcsmall Thu 5/15/2008 09:14PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I just don't like their name. For some reason, it really annoys me.

cam0083 Fri 5/16/2008 08:56AM
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I remember first hearing these guys a few years ago and being from MN got pretty excited there was an amazing local band out there. I bought there first album and was blown away by the first half of it but the rest fell way short in my opinion. Same as when I saw them live. Just not much energy and not very impressive. I was hoping that with a new album they would have some more great songs to round out the few they already had and make a good live show. I have yet to hear any of the new stuff but according to this review it seems that's not the case.

mcarroll Fri 5/16/2008 09:26AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I caught these guys at SXSW this year and there was nothing special about that performance either. I didn't know any of their songs but had heard all the hype about them a year or two ago, so thought I would check them out. They certainly didn't convert me.

Smittea Fri 5/16/2008 10:13AM
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Zzzzzzzz......... oh sorry, I fell asleep listing to their song.

bertolet Mon 5/19/2008 02:27PM
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mikesmall, I completely agree with you. It's like the band held a contest to come up with a name and picked the absolute worst submission from among thousands. I defy anybody to come up with a stupider name for a band than "Tapes & Tapes."

Jukebox Hero Tue 5/20/2008 09:45AM
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Jukebox Hero

String Cheese Incident?