Minneapolis based indie-rock outfit Tapes ‘n Tapes have encompassed an entire career’s worth of success, as well as disappointment, into their small three-album discography.
“The Loon” was an instant hit with critics when released in 2005, as the band proudly displayed their classic indie-rock influences with an album that combined the rural frenetic nature of The Pixies with the stark minimalism of The Wire’s phenomenal 1977 debut “Pink Flag.” It was with little surprise that the band was quickly picked up by a major label for their second, and ultimately disappointing, 2008 album “Walk It Off,” an album that completely stripped away the charming eccentricities of their debut in favor of strained aggression and an astounding lack of quality songs.
Not surprisingly, Tapes ‘n Tapes were quickly dropped from their major label contract after the failure of “Walk It Off,” and have gone the route of self-release with their newest album “Outside.” A record that not only continues the band’s trend of lackluster releases, but also shamelessly pillages the past for a release that fails on the fundamental level of original artistic creativity.
While Tapes ‘n Tapes’ debut was indeed lauded for its embracement of independent music’s past, it was combined with enough originality from the band to create a fresh approach to an already established sound. “Outside” meanwhile takes the exact sound of several already established bands and simply designates it to a particular song, creating an album that comes across sounding like a one-dimensional hookless compilation.
Track after track, “Outside” unapologetically lifts another band’s signature sound to the point of creating a game of audio Scattegories for the listener. “People You Know” is a carbon copy of every element from the canon of millennial indie-rock band The Walkmen. From the jangly guitars to the stark atmospheric lyrics, the song leaves the listener wondering if Tapes ‘n Tapes are fully aware of exactly how much they are lifting from other acts. The blues-rock stomp “The Saddest of All Keys” immediately calls to mind the Black Keys with its generous use of organ and crass vocal delivery but ultimately lacks the conviction of its muse.
This lack of conviction can be said about “Outside” as a whole. Although the source material is often times admirable, Tapes ‘n Tapes’ replication is cold, unforgiving and most of all uninspiring.