Album review of Black Tambourine's self-titled retrospective

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Black Tambourine


The current glut of reissues, remasters and deluxe editions flooding the album market is just another symptom of an industry obsessed with selling the old as new. "Black Tambourine," the self-titled complete retrospective of D.C.'s finest noise-pop act of the '90s, is a noteworthy exception. It collects the short-lived quartet's hard-to-find output (just 10 songs), some crucial outtakes and even adds four brand-new songs to create an essential package for one of the city's best and most-overlooked bands of the past two decades.

The capital's hard-core and punk history is rightfully revered and well documented, but while aggression and angst ruled the day there was also a lighter side to the underground rock scene. Black Tambourine's influence has seeped into the current indie-blog scene, with Archie Moore, Brian Nelson and Mike Schulman trading off on fuzzed-out guitar and Pam Berry's coolly delivered, reverb-drenched vocals serving as a template for any number of Brooklyn bands. Aesthetic was vital but songwriting never took a back seat; "Throw Aggi Off the Bridge" and "For Ex-Lovers Only" stand as genre touchstones landing at that perfect midpoint where the noise and pop meet.

An unreleased demo version of "Aggi" is the real revelation here: Schulman's guitar is coated in distortion, ferociously strummed, overpowering everything else in the mix and giving off a serious Velvet Underground "White Light/White Heat" vibe.

-- David Malitz

Recommended tracks:

"Throw Aggi Off the Bridge" (First Demo), "For Ex-Lovers Only," "By Tomorrow"

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