Tape The Radio

London Buffalo Bar, 9 June 2011
Live review – Tape The Radio
Rules are meant to be broken. And the unwritten law which insists that pensive, sweeping indie rock can only be delivered by sour-faced men in black shirts and too much make-up has grown a bit long in the old tooth.

Not that South London’s Tape The Radio (that’s South London via Kidderminster, San Francisco and Canada by the way) are scared of a bit of well-intended noir. The shirts are black, that’s definitely a black guitar there, all hair is dark and precision-coiffed… but, woah! That’s one HUGE silver drumkit with fairy lights all over it, eh?

It lights up the deeper, darker half of this blood-red basement bar like a catherine wheel, serving due notice, perhaps, that Tape The Radio have a little more to offer than generic, dark indierock-by-numbers.

Tonight, frontman Malcolm Carlson, serious-faced Ben Caruso on bass and drummer Bryan McLellan are launching their debut album, ‘Heartache And Fear’ – an epic, swirling guitar-driven enterprise that has been three years in the making. Three years, folks. That’s a LOT of attention to detail.

This much is obvious from the plentiful, minutely precision-engineered chops. Malcolm’s stabbing guitar style and punchy vocal is reminiscent of the very best bits of early Cure, only without the superfluous, distracting whimsy of Robbo Smith. And a belting midset rendition of ‘Horses’ reminds the listener of Echo and the Bunnymen, perhaps, or the very brief period (and there WAS one) when it was cool to like U2.

It’s a big night and, like the sparklefest of drums behind them, Malcolm is determined to shine. “Move fuckin’ forward to the front, it’s our album launch,” he appeals to the faithful. “Get on with it!”

They do. The eager layer down the front have had two, maybe three days tops to learn all the words – and judging from the display of opening and closing mouths, they have spent all their tube journeys doing just that.

Title track ‘Heartache and Fear’ marks the most introspective this band gets – and there is plenty of levity to go with the fairy lights. ‘Stay Inside’, for instance, while sounding like something Mansun might try to teach Killing Joke to play if they were brave and drunk enough, skips along sufficiently to remind us that there’s a cracking, warm summer evening going on up those stairs and out that door.

They may take much of their lead from the gloriously earnest years of great British indie, but there’s a crack of light shining through Tape The Radio as well. It’s that dichotomy that we like.

Andy Barding

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