Say what you will about Tapes ‘n Tapes, but they play to their strengths which are as follows: they’re good musicians. Great drumming, awesome guitar work, pretty decent bass player. Lyrically? Well, actually…
I don’t know. I’ve listened to Walk It Off, their latest effort, several times now and I have no fucking clue what Josh Grier is saying. The album is not terrible. I like the melodies, the instruments sound great (thanks to that oft-producer of Flaming Lips albums, David Fridmann), but the only line I understand is, oddly enough, when Grier shouts on “George Michael,” “and you can’t understand what we say!”
The songs are good enough, I guess. They sometimes make me wish I was listening to Transmissions from the Satellite Heart by The Flaming Lips or any of the Delgados albums (Fridmann produced some good shit for those defunct Delgados), which is not necessarily a compliment – I mean, your album probably shouldn’t make people want to listen to other albums. You know, that aren’t yours. The fact is, though, The Loon, the Tapes ‘n Tapes debut, was a quirky little bastard of an album and you could forgive it for sounding too much like this or that because it was a pretty playful outing. Walk It Off, on the other hand, is a pretty serious-sounding affair. Not bad, mind you, but it’s like getting dry toast when you want southern barbecue. It’ll help your hunger, but you’re not gonna invite your friends over for dry toast and tap water.
So Destroyer wins the prize here with Trouble in Dreams. Not that Dan Bejar’s new record is a rack of ribs and a cold IPA to Tapes ‘n Tapes’ dry toast, but it’s an enjoyable listen. Bejar sets the mood effectively on the first line of the album: “Okay, fine, even the sky looks like wine.” This is a clue – pour a glass of something strong (this is a red wine album if ever there was one) and prepare to sit through Bejar’s sometimes too-clever, often crazed accounts of whatever the fuck he’s talking about.
I tried to listen to this album in my car, which is the entirely wrong context for 2 reasons. First, obviously, you can’t drink red wine while driving to work. And second, car listening is great for albums that you can stop in the middle (when you get out of your car) and jump right back into (when you get back in your car, maybe eight hours later). Trouble in Dreams is an awful car album not because the music is bad (it’s good) but because Bejar really creates a mood from start to finish. Meditative, playful, confused, sarcastic, Bejar is doing some serious emotional traveling and it doesn’t flow well if you’re hopping out to work a day in between doses of Destroyer.
But when I can sit down and listen to this album all the way through, I’m struck by it. I should fucking hate Destroyer. He sounds like a cross between Kenny Loggins and James Taylor with just enough of a young Bowie thing going on to force you to spare his life. Of course, Bejar’s voice is what it is; and he actually does a lot with it.
What I dig about Trouble in Dreams is that, on balance, it’s like Dan Bejar invited a bunch of friends and a few foes over to his house for some serious discussion but he got too drunk and his attention span shrank. And now we’re sitting back and watching him go on these tirades about Leopards of Honor and something about “the fucking horizon.” It’s some weird romantic mess (and the bonus is no singer operating today, not a single one of them, can enunciate an f-bomb the way Dan Bejar can. Let’s see Kenny Loggins do that!) and I’m telling you right now that it’s kind of good but I can tell it’s gonna grow on me. There’s a balance to be struck with Trouble in Dreams and a bottle of red wine – somewhere as the album plays on and the level in the bottle decreases, something sublime will transpire. If this weren’t a fucking Wednesday, I’d put this theory to the test forthwith.