Named one of Chicago’s Top Three up-and-coming bands, Cassettes On Tape deliver a heavy dose of Britpop so pure, it’s hard to believe they’re from the Midwest. I’ve seen plenty of acts that try to put their stamp on The Breakfast Club-esque sound, but it’s often too thick with electro pop to be taken as an authentic reproduction. Cassettes on Tape are self-described as college radio buffs with a taste for the ‘80s/’90s U.K. indie scene. Think The Human League meets The Cure. The group keeps their compositions true to the era and even throws in a dash of post-punk just to bridge the decade gap. Joe (vocals/guitar), Chris (drums), Greg (bass) and Shyam (lead guitar) have been playing throughout the Chicago area since 2011, building their following and gaining momentum for their release Murmuration.
Fuzz, hooks, and reverb are their main weapons of choice in this retrograde assembly of sound. The guitars are dreamy and blended with just the right amount of trebly melody and wide chording. The drums dance throughout with active hats and solid grounding with the bass drum.
But with most ‘80s music, the genre isn’t complete without a deep, distantly contemplative vocal, in this case quite dry with range, but dripping with throwback gold. I really have to hand it to their well dialed in guitars. They capture the dreamy strums of a time gone by as if it were still here. Maybe it is. That time in music was such an exploration both good and bad. Experimenting with sounds and structure, putting emotion before formula, it’s harder to find that in the popular music of today.
“Cuttertown” is powerful and strong and yet has vulnerable moments. Each song shares in this theme to some degree, but whatever the case, Cassettes On Tape waste not time delivering on the beat and getting their audiences to move, sway and bounce.
The following track “Out There” brings out a moody side in the band and never quite lands on a major tonality. The tension is a nice change of direction despite being early in the mix. It let’s the listener know that this is no one trick pony effort. “Time To Go” has a great little drum intro and then opens up into what could be Cassettes On Tapes’ biggest sound on the record. From start to finish, this album doesn’t lull or drag. Treat yourself to some nostalgia and step back in time with Murmuration.
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