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Tape/Off – Chipper

tape off

In the time of chimpanzees Beck was a monkey. His words, not mine. What he probably means is that in a time when everyone else seemed to be brushing their hair and combing their minds he was eating Doritos and just generally hanging out; monkeying around; flinging shit rather than giving it.

That time was probably at some point pre-93, when he first drawled his momentous anthem for the apathetic outcast, Loser. I say probably because, by ’93, the age of monkeys was all but upon us, Loser pretty much just waving the flag.

The 90’s were the years of the slacker. Denim trousers became tattered rags; garages became twenty-four hour cone zones. Rock gave way to grunge. It was the age of Dinosaur Jr, the age of Pixies, the age of Nirvana—all spitting out organically grown, independently harvested post-punk mash for shits and gigs. Play for yourself. Do what you love, and fuck the rest. This is the monkey mantra.

tape/off

Signed to Sonic Masala (the dudes who brought you Roku Music and Gazar StripsTape/Off have just dropped their debut LP Chipper

Tape/Off are four dudes from Brisbane that, apparently, kind of get it. It’s right there in those loose, resonant power chords that shepherd in Australia’s Most Livable City—the stellar, wind-blown opener from their debut LP, Chipper. Killer, slow-burning slacker psych and sand-filled shoegaze; the beached out, doped out, blissed out vibes of a lethargic monkey in a man’s breakneck world. It’s one of those dreamy ‘stoner’ grunge moments: terminally chill, and yet prickled with a kind of shrugging dismissiveness. Romantically jilted and languidly disenchanted. In these ways, Australia’s Most Livable City hints at what can be expected from the next half-hour or so of album time—in others, Chipper is an altogether different beast.

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One need only take a short trip to Peggy’s Lookout, the second of eleven tracks on the LP, to see what I mean. The psychedelic shores of Australia’s Most Livable City are behind us now: we’ve entered the heaving, smoking, sweating epicenter of Brisbanian garage angst. It’s all Parquet Courts and fight circles here; guitar-driven distortion, drowned out calls-to-arms, mandrills in leather jackets bouncing off the exposed brick walls. It’s also a pretty good indication of Tape/Off’s ability—not to mention propensity—to yank things from one to ten. Track one’s voice in the back of your head is track two’s shouting spit in your face; the airy, slack-wristed chords crashing into a blitzing wall of noise.

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It’s the kind of musical athleticism and variety that ought to make for an exciting album—and, in many ways, does. But there are tracks like Different Order— carrying on in the vein of Peggy’s Lookout to the point of noise weariness—that frustrate the state of flux. By the end of this throwaway track, the middle-of-the-hill, Silversun Pickups style Where To Begin is a welcome reprieve, and a fitting breather before the all-out blitz and machinegun percussion of Pedestal Fan.

It’s all about contrast: flavours this strong need to be complemented with palate cleansers; in a garage full of smoke, one needs to occasionally get out for some air. And, overall, Chipper is at its best when it works with the idea of diversity: constantly stirring the pot to keep things interesting.

Believe In You brings back a welcome splash of surf-rock; Tide strips things back with some lazy, Ariel Pink-y vibes; and Climate channels The Smith Street Band to stoke those embers of Australian, youth-in-revolt anti-establishmentarianism. It’s a continual blood flow of grungy disgruntlement circulating through a variety of different chambers. Diversify and gratify.

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And then there’s Elevators. One of the most deliciously simple and palatable moments of the album, this track also boasts one of the clearest bits of lyrical flair, as vocalist Branko Cosic reflects “If God willin’ really ain’t that thrillin’ for ya, let’s just leave it to love”. It’s the height of Tape/Off’s vagabond indifference, poignantly encapsulating the instinctive, ‘do as you feel’ mentality behind the album at large. Nowhere is the lethargic, apish apathy more apparent than here.

That is, until Another Year.

Chipper’s brilliantly un-grand finale is a careless, monotone lamentation on a cycle of laziness and slobbery impossible to escape: completely circular, year after year. The lyrics are up there with Beck’s “I’m a loser baby so why don’t you kill me” for straight-shot ‘fuck it’ grunge lassitude. Romantically jilted and languidly disenchanted—if there were any one label to be stamped on the outside of this barrel of monkeys, then that might just be it.

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June 9, 2014

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