Introducing… Tape The Radio
by Daniel Haim
Monday 18th April 2011 marks the release of Heartache and Fear, the debut album from London based three-piece Tape The Radio. Produced by Jim Lowe (Stereophonics, Foo Fighters) and mixed by Alan Moulder (Depeche Mode, The Killers, My Bloody Valentine).
18.04.11 will be a momentous day for singer and songwriter Malcolm Carson. The band Tape The Radio first came into being in March 2008 when Ben Caruso (bass) left his native San Francisco to team up with Canadian, Bryan McLellan (drums) and Londoner Malcolm (Vocals / Guitar). The last three years have seen the band lovingly craft each track, tending their record and lavishing it with attention. The album is the band’s longed for child, something that was gestating inside Carson for a decade, something he nurtured through career tumult, failed relationships, lost friendships and something he sheltered despite the vagaries of the music industry. As the name suggests it is the culmination of a lot of ‘Heartache and Fear’. It is also a glorious and wide screen album; a sum of its parts and very much the product of the years of personal experience that all three members have poured into it.
The album throws its doors open with title track ‘Heartache and Fear’, a rumbling, dark opening statement. It is chunky and epic yet delicately exposes raw nerves and sensibilities. An emotional confession of a song, it is both brave and bold; from Carson’s delicate guitar riffs to McLellan’s heavyweight drum rolls. ‘Shaking Hearts’ is the second song in and from the off it’s clear that Tape The Radio are a band who knows how to write soundscapes. As the album unfolds it reveals that all of the tracks have huge visual impact. They are cinematic, they are climatic and they flash hints of a musical lineage that only could have been transcribed by a worldly hand. There are amphetamine-fuelled, caffeine-twitch guitar jerks on forthcoming single ‘Save A Life’ (11.04.11) and whilst it is a much more to-the-bone kind of track, ‘Save A Life’ demonstrates that thematically Tape The Radio seem to have an incredibly primal sound. It is earthy and not a little Celtic. Landscapes flash into the mind’s eye as the record plays; Welsh valleys roll into view, oceans stretch out and rain torrents down – all part of its visual impact. Not surprising then, when bands such as Echo & The Bunnymen and the Manic Street Preachers were part of Carson’s musical DNA. These influences flow through tracks such as ‘1989’ and particularly, the upbeat and vital midway point of the album, ‘Horses’. Venturing once more into darker turf ‘Suffer Me Suffer Me’ is an altogether heavier proposition. Drummer Bryan McLellan sets the tone with an insistent and unquestionable bass drum thudding backbeat and both Ben Caruso’s bass and Carson’s vocal all underline not just the near gothic sensibilities of this track but also Robert Smith’s lipstick traces that are all over it. The ghost of The Cure also lurks around ‘Stay Inside’ – a glorious, skipping, summery, pop song. The first single from the album was ‘Our Love Is A Broken Heart’. Released late last year, it also has a huge pop direction and a levity set against a bittersweet lyric. “An anthemic lament which also packs a punch”, said Record of the Day and with early radio play from those other men of exceptional taste Tom Robinson and Steve Lamacq at 6Music, the single and band were beautifully introduced to both the media and listeners alike. The penultimate missive is ‘The Message’ which is nostalgically wistful and gloriously edgy. These split level, schizophrenic musical swings between almost pretty pop melodies and darker much more metallic riffery are undoubtedly Tape The Radio’s trademark and something they handle with aplomb. A skill they demonstrate to great effect live. The depth and dimension is more 3D than their 3 piece combination suggests. So to the final song of ‘Heartache and Fear’ the debut album by Tape the Radio, simply titled ‘A Desert Track’ it is a magnificent totem of a song. It is towering and monumental and stands out against the musical landscape it is sited in. More than that it is a vital part of the album as a whole, an album which reflects the entire story of Tape The Radio, songs about ambition and loss, ‘Heartache and Fear’.