I had an interesting, albeit brief, Twitter conversation earlier in the week, in which someone raised the point that ‘too many mistake seriousness in pop for intelligence and fun for stupidity.’ It was in relation to a simple yet astonishingly effective recently-released album, but those words could apply just as easily to the new album from Scottish math-pop types Tango in the Attic [Twitter/Facebook], which manages to balance intelligence and fun extremely well, and throw in a metric ton of brilliant hooks while it’s at it.
It’s an extremely busy-sounding album, too: there’s a lot going on in each of the album’s nine tracks, and though it would be easy to say that everything else involved in the propulsive opener Stitch is drowned out by some prominent riffing, its euphoric hooks mask the fact that the band have unpredictable indie-pop down to a fine art. These are the sort of songs which, once you feel you’ve gotten a handle on them, immediately veer off into another direction. The same can certainly be said of recent single Mona Lisa Overdrive, which waits until it can be pigeonholed before spinning off into something else entirely.
In the context of the album, that song sounds almost straightforward, but it is songs like Paw Prints and the Animal Collective-esque 198 Alpaca (the latter of which makes use of an impressively complex time signature, as well as similarly impressive drumming from Paul Johnson) that give a better indication of Tango in the Attic’s new sound, a mixture of lo-fi, garage and any number of other things. They don’t feel like being boxed into any particular genre, and this sort of restlessness is reflected in the way the album is structured: a lot of the songs flow into each other, making for quite a cohesive listening experience.
It would be easy to call Sellotape a front-loaded album, and it certainly doesn’t help that the first four songs are some of the best material the quintet have written so far, but, quite ironically, the album doesn’t properly hit its stride until Suncream, the song which brings the band’s forward-thinking style to the fore and wreaks havoc upon conventional song structure; at the same time, the album’s genesis lies in pop music, and this is no more apparent than on penultimate track Swimming Pool, a wonderfully danceable song which also spends half its time in a 7/8 meter – odd time signatures and danceable music can certainly go together, though anyone wanting to strut their stuff to much of the material on this album had better come up with a new set of moves. Sellotape is that rarest of albums which proves that even though intelligence and fun can be hard to come by in the same pop song, they can certainly co-exist, because this is one of the most enjoyable albums you’ll hear all year.
Sellotape is released on May 28th via Domicile Crocodiles.
Swimming Pool session video: