The Black, Tanglewood

The Black, Tanglewood

The Black make a legitimate bargain with their listeners: efficiency. We will not do anything flashy, they seem to say, but neither will we indulge ourselves. Don’t expect to be amazed, but don’t expect to be bored, either. We will entertain you. It’s the bargain that Kurt Cobain sneered at in “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” but once one outgrows the anger of discarded youth, the value of entertainment becomes far more apparent. It is the commodity that is offered today by musicians who no longer have the “shock and awe” power that marks the continually shifting sound of now, which those same people did possess in their own youth. The paradox of classic rock radio is that which once amazed being presented now as entertainment.

That’s the paradox that Tanglewood embodies as well, not only on relatively energetic tracks that draw on the likes of the Rolling Stones and Elvis Costello for a fun, inoffensive charm but also on the entire middle section of the record, which plays like Pink Floyd mixed with the Cowboy Junkies — i.e., drugged, but in a way that straddles dangerously the line between street ‘ludes and sleeping pills, especially at an average runtime of more than five minutes each. Vocalist David Longoria has a gift for hooks that comes in handy on uptempo songs like “Disrespecting Dirt” and “J. P. Lenoir Street” and especially on the deceptively elongated chorus of “Cell Block,” but even these don’t carry the music the way they need to. The Black simply don’t have enough good musical ideas. This is particularly true of drummer Andy Morales, who makes too much use of an extremely limited vocabulary, though he isn’t helped by the record’s cardboard-box production.

The bottom line is that if a band takes as few chances as the Black, they must substitute a real talent for entertainment. The Black are significantly less entertaining than they imagine themselves to be, than by rights they ought to be. As Krusty the Klown once cruelly opined, “In this business, either you got it or you don’t.” The enduring hope of every musician is embodied in the convenient truncation of his next fallible line: “And you, kid, do not have — hold on a second while I finish this sentence outside…”

(K Woo Records; The Black --

Review by . Review posted Wednesday, August 16th, 2006. Filed under Reviews.

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