Tambersauro, From the Last Day I Saw You

Tambersauro, From the Last Day I Saw You

More than anything else, From the Last Day I Saw You is a manifesto. And really, it feels fitting that as they make their final(?) bow and step off into the wings, Tambersauro should unleash something just like this, tossing aside the oblique lyrics and instrumentals in favor of all-out bitter confrontation, venting their collective spleen out at the uncaring world at large.

Listening to bassist/vocalist Jeff Price roar and whisper, I feel like I’m witnessing the end of a traumatic, drama-filled gathering of some previously-estranged family, where the quiet younger brother (or whoever) gets fed up and decides he no longer gives a shit about being nice, so he dumps out everything he’s got, all the pent-up grudges and aggression he’s let fester over the past half-decade or so.

And as awkward as that sounds, believe me, it absolutely works. In spite of the songwriting standard to which most non-orchestral Western music adheres, where music generally has to have lyrics to go with it, it’s surprising to look around realize that the majority of the songs you hear day in and day out never actually say anything meaningful. We (and yeah, I’ll include myself in the group, because I definitely do) revel in clichés;s, reheated tropes about love and loss and whatever else, and “clever” lyrics that dance around without actually making a real point. By and large, even songs and albums I know and adore are about as substantial as a puff of fairy dust when you dig past the word-shell on the outside.

From the Last Day I Saw You, on the other hand, comes off like a bitter, paranoiac, yet clearly-seen tirade against the tightly-controlled, money/ego-driven world in which we live, shouted from a street corner pulpit at passers-by who really don’t want to hear it, even if they agree. The whole thing seethes with outrage and fury, even when it’s quiet and restrained; there the fury still simmers, just below the surface.

The music matches the words just about perfectly, as well, alternately shifting — sometimes very abruptly, but never when it shouldn’t — between delicate, prog-y, quietly hypnotic passages and thundering, rumbling, furious wrestling sessions between the bass, guitar, and drums, where all three instruments sound like they’re fighting for supremacy over the others. Tambersauro bridges the post-rock space between Fugazi and Slint (the latter particularly evident in the moments when Price half-whispers the words), encompassing raw, punkish energy on the one hand and meticulous, mathematical, atmospheric moodiness on the other, grafting the two together so tightly they feel like they’ve never been apart.

The album starts off strong with “If Only I Could Remember,” which rolls along with weirdly treated, underwater-sounding drums and echoey, minimal guitars while Price talks softly, practically right into your ear, telling you truths about the world that you know, deep down, but don’t want to admit, then shifts into the louder “Gravity Takes Its Toll,” where the band walks the line between sleek post-rock grace and the staggering, stumbling, possibly-misdirected swing of an angry drunk, rumbling and aggressive and loose-limbed. In particular, I love the part near the end where drummer Lance Higdon pulls free of his kit and bellows in frustrated, righteous fury at the mic, passionately accusing a former love of treating him like a monster to be taken care of by some heroic savior.

“Not Me” plays both sides, starting off delicate and somber, with soft, meditative guitars of Price’s gentle voice and skittering electronic drumbeats, then turning on the actual instruments a third of the way through, coming in dark and rough-edged and raw. The album really comes to a head with “Standing There Gawking,” which is murky and menacing, a flat-out condemnation of (or warning to?) overpaid celebrities and their pet causes, with Price standing tall and flatly declaring the uselessness and unearned authority of public figures who don’t do a damn thing to deserve it beyond pretending to be somebody else.

The song actually makes me think weirdly of Moving Pictures-era Rush, in its precise, controlled-yet-furious power and methodical, mesmerizing pace; there’s as much “Red Barchetta” here as there is “Repeater” here, and it seems oddly appropriate, too, considering “Barchetta”‘s anti-control message. “Mr. Mannhauer” owes a fair debt to prog-rock, too, in its stutter-stop rhythms and circular guitar melodies, even if it heads in a little bit of a different direction lyrically, with Price spitting a biting, finger-pointing (and then, backwards-finger-pointing) denunciation of the drudgery of day-to-day corporate work life.

As great as it is, listening to From the Last Day I Saw You is a bittersweet experience, honestly. Tambersauro, to me, cuts something of a tragic figure in Houston’s often-overlooked musical landscape, even among a veritable catalogue of unjustly ignored bands — in spite of slogging it out for seven years now, always striving for something new, always creating music that’s genuinely unique in this city, they’ve always felt sidelined, marginalized somehow.

And hell, maybe they don’t even care. Maybe Last Day just means they’ve said their piece, done what they wanted to do, and now they’re done, and that’s all there is to it. As parting words go, it doesn’t get much better.

[Tambersauro is playing its final show 7/24/10 at The Exoskeletion (2808 Milam), along with Spelling Bee, Babar, Dear Human, & Honey & Salt.]
(Esotype Records; Tambersauro -- http://www.tambersauro.com/)
BUY ME: BandCamp

Review by . Review posted Friday, July 23rd, 2010. Filed under Features, Reviews.

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