The Family Myth
here’s a dark form smoking in the dogyards and corridors of Tangiers’ third album, The Family Myth. This Toronto band has been reading Poe’s chestnut firesongs. Mutts of Baskerville, a chained fool or two beneath the sandstone with the wine, and perhaps a maelstrom to summon in the fangs of modernity. In this turn from the simple song-smithery of their first two albums to the charlatan upheavals and tweaked time signatures (prog lite? Oh you again), you can sense the nonsense in Tangiers’ taste for tackling something new. And yet, their charms are sometimes hard to ignore.
Maybe Tangiers has simply taken on the well-oiled churn of the dance-punk/post-punk/anything-punk as a means of generating sales. Maybe it’s a natural progression, moving from the organ-fueled new-garage of their last record, 2004’s Never Bring You Pleasure, to an album choking on cold-fuel, embracing the spunky proto-prog of bands like the Fiery Furnaces. Either way, this new sense of excursion comes with its costs, and like many of their predecessors, it robs this Toronto band’s tunefulness in the name of unnecessary experimentation.
Never Bring You Pleasure had “Ro Ro Roland,” the kind of pant-splitting knee-bender anthem that can rule a record in a three-minute splash. It was green grass, and the love of failed democracy and what’s-next, spilled Jameson, and supreme-being as light-flick spark and too many glasses of wine, gaining energy out of the pop and spank of a bubble burst. You see it in pink and red and flavored lips—anything that reminds you even remotely of illumination—and you return to it with the new ears of friends, good god hear this and take it home with you. On The Family Myth, Tangiers twists the wires around their own anthemic senses, tangling their more overt melodic senses in obtuse (relatively speaking) arrangements and prickly musicality. They want to become difficult, worthy, and they wind up merely frustrating (beware the Strokes of New Year).
With this new tweaking comes a darker sense of song-craft. Recorded in the winter of last year between Toronto and New York—ummm, snow—with Calla producer Chris Zane, The Family Myth takes on the pallor of seasonal end. “Renewed Love” is a broken-limbed “Juicebox,” a-stumble on off-kilt rhythms and clean guitar stabs. It goes out of its way to avoid pop formatting, and results in ineffective sludgery. “Classless and Green” is similarly difficult, mixing soft Specials-worthy organ fills with a gummy chorus. Always compared to NYC bands of the DAY, Tangiers moves ever closer to the clipped glare of Interpol. Of course, I can’t hear the bass, and the ghost steps out of the shadows, and Christ knows Paul Banks’ deadening poesie ain’t nowhere to be found.
Elsewhere, in odd moments of familiarity, The Family Myth shows a band still content with its own past. “Your Pristine Hands” waxburns of Interpol’s “NYC,” perhaps the leading candle-anthem of the new millennium, but in a way that refers to it without draining it. Scary and pious, it’s a scarred cathedral to aborted love, making the most of former Guided By Voices’ member John McCann’s stolid drum-work. “A Winter’s War” is perhaps the most reminiscent of their old material, snaking around Shelton Deverell’s Zo-lofted keyboards and the brand of pogo-stick sing-along for which Tangiers is known.
Perhaps that’s the mark of my frustration here. We all have our own innate formulas for bands, without joining them to language. We mark our time. We can accept two records that sound similar, if never newly-formed or ingenious, at least making us feel like we can duck inside our headphones at two am and sway. But it seems we can never take a third record of the same now, and Tangiers was up against our esteem. Perhaps they sensed it, and in selling themselves a subtle shift, they pawned us all a snooze.