Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording engineered by Mike Gentry
The way that Tapes 'n Tapes lead singer Josh Grier describes the four songs that his band taped here - almost a half year prior to this month's release of its third record, "Outside" - it seems as though he might have left some stuff out. We're thinking that the details are his to keep, surely, but there are a dozen songs on this album and there is, without a doubt, more continuation and connectivity than the space would allow here. He goes from "Nightfall" to "One In The World," the final song in this set, tracking a trail from one to the next, linking everything together with something closer to smudge marks, bruises and spider webs than confetti and streamers. He throws his arm across the shoulders of these "familial" songs - all coming from the same litter of thought - and brings them closer to each other, so the troubles and the emotional failings of their subject matter all becomes one and the same. It makes for a statement of worrisome doubt and makes one consider the chaos theory to be the one and only theory we should ever subscribe to. As we move through our days, there seems to be no way to confidently avoid harm or anguish. Things happen and some of them are good, some of them are bad, some of them can be righted and most of them are permanent markings that leave a deeply set bit of grime on our floor that we have to look at and grit our teeth about for all of the rest of our days, unless we want to just tear that carpet completely up from the floorboards, roll it and set it out at the curb. Most of the time, that's more work than we'd ever want to get ourselves into, so we glare at the stain and grit our teeth, just as we've discussed.
Grier and band (drummer Jeremy Hanson, keyboardist Matt Kretzman and bassist Erik Appelwick) have a great understanding of the tone and temperature of the music that they're best at. It's slightly growly. It spurts out at us. It feels like it's being perpetuated by a tribe, a group of humans with a dash of warpaint swiped across their cheeks, unable to corral their feelings and anxieties any more than a scared, threatened wild animal is - with its back fur standing straight up on its curved backbone, ready for whatever it has to do next. We think that Grier might think of himself as an animal just like that, if the time ever calls for such a consideration. In the songs that the band wrote for "Outside," there is a thread of thought that regards our passage as a linear journey that keeps us guessing and bewildered, dealing with the missteps and the dropouts, just as we deal with the pieces that leave us buzzing gleefully. They take us into the problem zones and let us feel the emotional carnage for what it is: certain. We feel everything that we lost and gained, forgot about and ignored. It's all part of the same. We're slower moving, after a little bit. We shuffle more. We drag our heavy bones. We try to keep a chin up. Grier sings on "Desert Plane," "Across a high and desert plane/Where towns were torched and hills were stained/That's where you were/And times were bad and you were tough/I bet you were a million miles away/And if you could/I'd be around/I'd hold you up and watch your tone/Cause you walk like you want to and my hand waits/And you move like you need a hand and tow away/Across a better land to call your own/I bet you saw the miles of cold and stone/It's where you bed and where you walk." We get that feeling - of needing a hand.