With shit like the Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls blowing up lately, I've been trying to trace the all-to-familiar sound back to at least a semblance of its roots. While I could name off a hundred bands I thought these bands sounded like, I couldn't quite nail it. A couple weeks ago, Slumberland Records reissued the complete collection of Black Tambourine, and after listening to it a few times, it all started to come together.
To put it simply, Black Tambourine is an early '90 version of a female-Jesus and Mary Chain. Okay, that's not entirely fair -- you can probably throw a little Vaselines, Beat Happening and Primal Scream into the mix for good measure.
It's a little bit loud, a little bit noise, a little bit punk and a shitload of rock. It's not nearly as abrasive as Jesus and Mary Chain's earlier stuff, but certainly comes from the same school of fuzz-guitar chaos.
It's a mid-tempo brain-blast lead by Pam Berry's sultry panned reverb of a vocal part. A track like "Dream Baby Dream" might sound more at home on a modern shoegaze record, while the album's opener, "For Ex-Lovers Only," might be more fitting alongside My Bloody Valentine.
There's nothing more entertaining than retracing routes of modern bands and coming up with a band that sounds just as modern. It's even disheartening sometimes -- maybe you really thought Radiohead was the first band to sound like that, or the Liars blew your mind with a rock opera -- but in this particular case, it's relaxing to know that, yes, many bands have done this, and many more will.
It's not that Black Tambourine's sound is particularly influential so much as everyone is copping it so heavily now, it might as well have come out last week. I'm not going to pretend like I had heard Black Tambourine in the early '90s , because that would be absolutely ridiculous -- I was too busy listening to Tone Loc.
That said, I wish I'd heard this a bit sooner -- before I had heard the modern equivalents. As seems to ring true in most cases, the newbies pale in comparison, especially once you're actually able to nail down which artists were around first. Black Tambourine was certainly one more piece of that puzzle.