Never Bring You Pleasure
hey returned to their homes; to their bloodbanks and needlework; to their card games and burrito-huts. They had outstayed their welcome. Hints were dropped. They were dazzled by the what- and wherefores. Dance-punk was there for a moment, but the crush was at an end. They understood now the length of their stay. It was time.
Why double back upon ourselves, you say? Why trace our course through formulaic rites of passage; a mirage of endless days twirling themselves dizzy through the year? Why this return? Well, you grime-toothed muckraker, the answer is simple. History needs it; summer needs it. They both work in patterns and patchworked sequences. Similarities reworked but unnegotiable. While wondering what next, we should have noted the steady circling around what already was.
Yes, the cycles are shorter. It seems like just two years since we all locked step with the much-ballyhooed streetwalk rhythms of the Strokes, the White Stripes, and the Hives. Has it really been two years? Did we already pass through the debuts of the Walkmen and the French Kicks, only to hear their much-improved follow-ups drop this year? It seems so long ago. Digi-pop, dance-punk, post-punk; here lie today’s codewords. Or are they yesterday’s? No matter. When I hear the second album by Toronto outfit, Tangiers, Never Bring You Pleasure, none of this systemic discourse holds any weight. With this album, Tangiers have bolstered rock with reckless jubilation. Again.
After losing half the band from their debut and replacing them with a new keyboardist and drummer, Tangiers’s fresh faces accomplished the unimaginable; they matured the sound of their predecessors without sacrificing the excitement. Where their debut was often jagged and crude, suffering from a hot-tempered insurgency that often fit a little too well into pigeonholes, Never Bring You Pleasure is sharp. Tight and razor-fine, they use new-wave-flavored keyboards to lighten their retro guitarwork with a cheeky sense of post-Motown, post-CBGBs blitzkrieg pop. They hone in on a riff, a groove, or a rambling organ line and paint snug circles around it. They reinvent fifty years of the color divide in pop music in a way the Dirtbombs have been doing for years, and they do it with their fingers trembling and their feet pattering the cement floor. There are tinges of classic Brit Pop, the Mods, the Fakers and the Queens. By God, those are the punks. We’d recognize you anywhere; no, we’re not sorry you’re here, Jesus no, we just didn’t expect you. Sure, you were invited. Didn’t you get it? And, in the end, as the album struts through its paces and diesels through its cracked streets, you revel in the frivolity of it all, and just how much it can buy you this summer.
Take a look at it one of the earliest tracks, “I Don’t Love You.” Its distant guitars refuse to be muffled; they sound shut off and hazy like they’re locked in the waiting room outside the studio and told to wait patiently, we’ll be with you in a second. They got tired of shuffling through old Cosmos and Town and Countrys, and they decided to begin anyway. A loose-hipped swagger sways above muffled handclaps and stop-start rhythms that sound oh-so ’66-Mick Jagger foreseeing Blondie grabbing for his torch.
The anthemic clatter continues later on with “Ro Ro Roland.” Part Zevon love song and part soundtrack for bombardier raids, the track is so mind-numbingly addictive I might just spend the rest of my days humming it to myself and thinking fondly of Mr. Hooper and Mr. Rogers. I’m starting to drool; somebody get me a towel. The chugging rhythms sound as though built from cinder blocks, dragged across miles and miles of sweaty cityscapes before shoving them into place. Finally, once bound in place, the song’s charging guitars and hovering organ lines scatter these rhythmic monoliths like dandelion spores, gaining a gospel-hymn state of grace rarely achieved in pop music.
Though the album wanes a bit in its second half (compared to “Ro Ro Roland” what wouldn’t?), there are enough moments of giddy pop fun to keep you buoyant for the duration. When it ends, and you look back at the album’s best tracks, they far outweigh its more mediocre moments. As bassist/part-time vocalist James Sayce hints on “Ro Ro Roland,” “If I loved everyone the same, why would I ever live with nothing to gain!” Touché.
Besides: With Tangiers around this summer, why worry about cycles, classifications, or systemic comprehensions? We have found our way back. No longer need we scatter our pleasure in equal measure. We have Never Bring You Pleasure, and it was about time. Again.