Reunited Black Tambourine delivers the buzx in Artisphere show

April 8, 2012

Black Tambourine was the logical choice to close music fanzine Chickfactor’s two-night 20th-anniversary celebration this weekend, but not because the band was wildly popular during its 1989-91 run. The local quartet found its audience after it split, as its members moved on to other outfits that then seemed more promising (notably Velocity Girl).

Two decades later, the temporarily reunited band has enough buzz to sell out Artisphere Saturday night, and also upcoming shows in Brooklyn and Hoboken.

The music Black Tambourine played on Saturday also had buzz: heavily distorted guitar, rattling bass and thumping drums, played by Archie Moore, Brian Nelson and Mike Schulman, who switched instruments often during the 40-minute set. Sometimes above the clamor, but mostly within it, floated the lucid soprano of Pam Berry, who occasionally shook a blond tambourine. Berry co-founded Chickfactor with Gail O’Hara when both worked at Washington City Paper.

Such songs as “I Was Wrong” and “Throw Aggi Off the Bridge” were short, squalling and tremendously charming, if not exactly unprecedented. Black Tambourine, like most of the evening’s acts, was strongly affected by raucous yet tuneful British bands of the late 1980s, including the Pastels, the Shop Assistants and My Bloody Valentine.

The same influences were audible in the newly composed “Holepunch,” the set-closing number by Lorelei, another local ‘90s band that has reunited, although on a more permanent basis than Black Tambourine.

There was somewhat less tumult in sets by Fan Modine and Lilys, although in the latter case that was because there were no Lilys. The group’s founder, Kurt Heasley, performed solo with just his acoustic guitar.

The Chickfactor anniversary parties were billed as “for the love of pop,” a phrase that needs some clarification. Black Tambourine, Lorelei and Fan Modine played music that most would call “punk.” Berry and her cohorts even performed a hushed version of “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend,” a song by punk exemplars the Ramones. (It’s one of four Ramones tunes on a new Black Tambourine EP.) This music is termed “pop” by its advocates, apparently, because of its lack of menace. Black Tambourine’s feedback assaulted the crowd’s ears, but its lullaby-in-a-cyclone style was oddly soothing.

Jenkins is a freelance reviewer.

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