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THE REEL DEAL?
:: Tapes ní Tapes :: Neon Hearts ::
07 November 2006 / Academy 3 / Manchester
By James Hinchcliffe

It's a little cold outside but not upstairs in the small Academy 3 so in wearing a scarf the singer of NEON HEARTS might just be pushing it a bit. It's a warm sound they whip up as well - catchy and essentially lightweight guitar pop with nice flute and organ interludes and plenty of arresting changes of pace; not unlike a jauntier (and much more bearable, quite frankly) Magic Numbers and with the panoramic retro feelgood-ism of The Bees. The 3rd song seems their best by a long way, a quick tempo start with instruments whizzing excitedly in and out - most impressively the flute - this particular tune marrying a high pace with similar quality. A likely single, I would think. It's slightly diminishing returns after this - you get the feeling they may have transferred the demo skill of the new band (putting your best songs upfront, essentially) to the stage. Still, it's a very capable display, with some ear-catching moments.

It's easy to be cynical about TAPES 'N TAPES on the grounds of them surfing a current wobbly-throated scratchy guitar zeitgeist, what with them following hot on the heels of the very similar sounding Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Wolf Parade (both of whom, on record, slightly outshine them, it has to be said) but they make a fine start, transferring songs like "Just Drums" and the excellent "Ten Gallon Ascots" from their decent if unspectacular debut LP "The Loon" to the live arena with a little added instrumental backbone and slightly tougher vocals. The drummer looks about 14 and the spit of a mid-teenage Steve Albini. He plays like a seasoned pro, though, and the accompanying choppy guitar clang is without doubt a vintage, the whole thing rounded off with some of the best Pavement-esque background yelping since, well, Pavement. They seem delighted to be here as well, which can't harm proceedings, and the lack of surprises (we get most of the LP and a few early singles) is offset by obvious enthusiasm and vigour. Seeing a band live should always be a bit more than the recorded songs reproduced as is and whilst there's no obvious experimentation here they play with enough style to force me to reappraise them a wee bit. It's a quick set (culminating in a great noisy thrash through LP closer "Jackov's Suite") and it sure does seem odd to be leaving a venue at 10.15....but then those of us with proper jobs could probably use this from the odd gig (remember the late D Boon's insistence that Minutemen gigs start and finish early to help "the workers"?) and it doesn't feel like shortchanging, just a new band knowing their limits and playing within them really rather nicely.


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