That Fucking Tank: A Document Of The Last Set – album review

That Fucking Tank: A Document Of The Last Set (Gringo Records)

Limited LP / DL

ReleasedĀ 21st October

For fans this album by TFT is a celebration of all the best bits of the past ten years; for newcomers it’s a perfect introduction to one of Britain’s finest truly DIY underground bands.

“Did they forget their PE kit and have to do it in their underwear?” It’s not exactly a normal first impression of a band you’ve been wanting to see for a while, but it rapidly became clear that That Fucking Tank were not a normal band. It was 2006 and, spending a lot of time in Leeds, I’d been seeing the name on posters; Holy Fuck and Fuck Buttons were yet to make an impression and it was still pretty unusual outside the anarcho punk and hardcore movement to come across a band defiantly limiting their commercial opportunities but catching attention with the nation’s favourite expletive. It worked for me, anyway, and now I was watching two men wearing nothing but pants, a shared woolly bunny-ears hat (on and off for alternate tracks), some tattoos and a lot of sweat. Equally minimal was their set-up – a guitar and some drums. No sequencer, no frills, not even a microphone. You’ve got to be pretty fucking good to get away with that – and they were. Arithmetic tells us Andy Abbott (baritone guitar played through multiple amplifiers, as it always says in official biographies) and James Islip (drums) had been at it three years by that point as 2013 marks their tenth anniversary, and with it comes ‘A Document of The Last Set’ – for fans a celebration of all the best bits; for newcomers a perfect introduction to one of Britain’s finest truly DIY underground bands.

A guitar and some drums, you say, is that not a bit … limited? Well, you probably don’t, being the sort of discerning listener that’s reading this in the first place, but you know, some people might, especially if they’ve sat through a few of those tedious blues rock twosomes that appeared in the White Stripes’ exhaust fumes and struggled to resist shouting “get a fucking bassist” at them. This is not a thought which ever occurs watching That Fucking Tank. There’s enough going on here as it is, with Abbott’s baritone guitar – a beautiful shiny aluminium-bodied beast of an instrument custom made in Florida – playing lead, rhythm and bass sometimes all at the same time. Myriad genres are assimilated and fused together: there’s an axis of Slint and Shellac at the core, but it’s a springboard for so much more. Take for example ‘Wonderful World Of’, always a highlight of their gigs – it’s so catchy it’s almost pop. Grungey, fuzzy, time-signature-shifting pop but exhilarating as great pop should be nonetheless.

 

‘Acid Jam’ meanwhile does pretty much what it promises. Despite being made on a guitar and drums there’s a distinct 80s acid-house feel to it, even if the dance music that influenced it was that of their schooldays a decade later. No, really – in the sleeve notesĀ to their most recent studio album ‘TFT’ they explain “In retrospect, the dance music that provided the foundation for the ravers and townies was far more authentically self-organised, localised and underground than they cynically marketed and imported ‘alternative rock’ we consumed via MTV and Kerrang.’ They have a point. And you listen to these four glorious minutes and think of all the bands who have tried to merge rock with dance sounds with generally variably stodgy results. Similar influences seep into ‘Mr. Blood’, which originally appeared on 2009’s ‘Tanknology’ but also sounds at times not dissimilar to what they’re all calling “psych” (and getting very excited about) here in 2013. ‘Tanknology’ also saw the band punning furiously with tracks called things like ‘Evan Dido’, ‘Bruce Springstonehenge’, ‘Dave Grolsch’ and ‘Keanu Reef’, the latter trio of which wrap up this collection with the appropriation of some of Springsteen’s riffs from ‘Dancing In The Dark’ making that track in particular part tribute, part violation – in the best possible way, of course. Hearing it here in its live form I’m transported back to a festival tent somewhere last summer, and the faces of first-time Tankers puzzling “is it or isn’t it”?

Which is largely the point. You may already have studio versions of these songs, but ‘A Document of The Last Set’ is as close as you can get to watching them without being in the same room: a musical snapshot of a typical live Tank performance, captured if barely contained by one of the greatest young producers in the country right now (he being Matthew Johnson of Suburban Home Studios, who in between bringing out the best in any number of bands from West Yorkshire also finds time to play in the excellent Hookworms). Repeat takes and post-production tweakings are kept to a minimum, leaving the buzz and the energy intact. If you’ve not got round to seeing them yet, it will make you want to do so at the earliest opportunity (at present there’s only one forthcoming gig on the schedule – 21st September at Leeds Brudenell Social Club – but they never keep quiet for long) – and if you have, turn it up loud, serve yourself a drink in a plastic pot and jump around until you’re sweaty.

That Fucking Tank’s website is here. They’re also on Facebook, Twitter & Bandcamp.

‘A Document Of The Last Set’ is available for pre-order now via the Gringo Records webshop on a limited vinyl pressing or digital download. You can still get their previous albums there as well, along with records by the likes of Hookworms, Cold Pumas, Bilge Pump and many more. For more about That Fucking Tank visit their website.

All words by Cath Aubergine, more writing by Cath on Louder Than War can be found here.

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