Album - TNT
Key Players - Dan Bitney – bass,
guitar, percussion, vibes, marimba. Doug McCombs – bass, guitar,
lap steel. Jeff Parker – guitar, bass John Herndon – drums,
vibes, keyboards. John McEntire – drums, synths, harpsichord,
keyboards. David Pajo – guitars, bass
Produced By - John McEntire
Release Date – March 10, 1998
What caused me to blow off the dust? -
This might be the most well known of all the bands releases. I just
sometimes figure for the point of the site I am “obscure” to
many, but if I focus on what might be see as one of the bands more
widely know releases it may spark conversation.
- This is Chicago based “post
rock” band was formed in the early 1990's. The band, who is
largely instrumental blend post rock with some jazz and electronica,
but fans also see them a progressive rock band. Their blend of
instruments and live performances started to get them noticed. Two
bass players, a vibe player and stunning musicianship was what was
needed to set them apart. This is their 3rd
FDF Comments (aka the songs) –
Clocking in at over 60 minutes the 12 track disc opens with the album
title “TNT”. It starts like a jazz album as McEntire works all
over the drum kit. It is not fast, but its methodical and as the
guitar begin to come in the layers grown. McEntire starts to push
the tempo some as others join in. Parker has a calming effect, but
you can feel the tension. The melody fuses back and forth and you'll
get a drone from a guitar, before a deeply toned keyboard run rides
over the melody. It is a solid album opener, setting the tone to the
listener of what is to come. “Swing from the Gutters” follows
and finds Parker and Bitney at the start as McEntire slowly gets the
drums going. The keyboards offer a haunting feel too. The bass is
what drives this, a simple 2-3 note riff that plugs it forward. As
the song continues it really blends in to the jazz and progressive
realm. Not “proggy” in that “King Crimson” sense, but just
very articulate time changes, and tempo. There is a lot to listen
to, but its also easy to hear a lot of whats going on. “Ten-Day
Interval” is a fun listen as the vibes, marimba and keyboards give
a light layer. Has the sound of a track that might open a si-fi
film. Minimalistic keyboard, but it has an “air” about it. When
the piano comes in you feel a further layer and the bass rings in at
times tossing in higher melodic chords. “I Set My Face to the
Hillside” has the sounds of children playing in a park before a
flamenco sounding guitar plays over it. After a few bars of that the
kids remain in the background and the percussion instruments put down
a quiet layer. The guitar goes to electric and continues with the
keyboard portions. The complexity of the music is prevalent,but it
is so simple at times. I keep saying “layers” but there is a lot
of cool things going on here. The diversity continues as “A
Simple Way to Go Faster” sounds like it could be used in a spy
film. The guitars are my favorite part on this, with two of them
pulling to and fro with the keyboards and bass. “Than Light that
Does Not Work” (yes it is the real title) seems to slow it down.
We have the play between the bass and guitars as the drums seem to be
a little “busy”, but it keeps sort of a middle of the road pace.
“The Suspension Bridge at Iguazu Falls” gets back to the jazz
feel, probably due to the heavy marimba presence. They keyboards
provide the second layer, but the guitar and drums all seem to look
to find their place. Its convoluted, but together at the same time.
The ancillary instruments continue to give the ears a lot to pay
attention to, always doing something both interesting, but not overly
complex. Something about this song, to these ears, have it be the
stand out track showcasing everything this album does well.
“Four-Day Interval” is a slower, darker sounding track with the
slow build of keyboards and vibes repeating the same few notes.
Single bass notes are struck as the layers swirl before a second
keyboard breaks the melody off elsewhere. The longest titled track
(and strangest) come in “In Sarah, Mencken, Christ and Beethoven
There Were Women and Men” starts off with sort of a quirky and fun
guitar line over an equally as fun keyboard loop. The fun sort of
gets old though as the shell doesn't seem to break when it should.
There are various other things going on that keep you sidetracked
enough though. They get their freak on later with some heavy stop
starts keeping you on your toes. The track fades over to “Almost
Always is Nearly Enough” and it tends to drift towards a low tempo
techno song. The same looping keyboard line and then a second
keyboard filled with samples and some electronic manipulation takes
place. The track is shorter and cuts quick to “Jetty” a quicker
paced song, that still is filled with spastic tempos and various
instruments taking a short burst and stepping back. The album
concludes with “Everglade” a similar sounding track that keeps
you firmly in place.
Where are they Now? - This version of
the group is still together. The band is busy with side projects and
producing. The last full length from the band was in 2009. They do
tour from time to time as well, but mostly at their casual pace.
David Pajo, who was involved with the project left shortly after. He
has worked as a touring musician in Smashing Pumpkins to Interpol to
Yeah Yeah Yeahs. He performs under the moniker Papa M as well.
FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live
– I have only seen the band once. July 5, 2007 at the
Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The review I did for my other blog
can be found here
FDF Overall Take – I often think back
to the line I heard years ago about an album like this. It read
similar to “Not something you'd put on to get the party started,
but an album for the hangers on to sit back and enjoy”. It is true
here. Its a complex at times record, but its also a fun listen.
There is just a lot going on and while it may sit on the background
at times, it will reach out. This is one record for sure you could
put on and have people ask “who is this” more out of curiosity
and not anger. Fly and play this release with pride.
Band page (Label/ThrillJockey)
Curious? Check out some MUSIC!
You can get it off the Thrill Jockey Link, the band link, or amazon.com
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