Welcome back to Kittens in Ties, loyal reader. For this brief instant, we (meaning I) have slipped into the guise of music reviewer. If you like Pitchfork reviews, pretend I gave the album a 8.125 and a BNM tag or whatever it is they are doing over there nowadays. And listen to it here, and make up your own mind, knowing, however, that if your opinion isn't mine it is wrong.
In a review of the new Foals record, David Goldstein wrote, “What’s a telltale sign that a young British band thinks they’re hot shit? When they open their album with an instrumental,” and while I don’t know if Team Tomb thinks they are “hot shit,” I can say they sound pretty damn sure of themselves. After about thirty seconds of rhythm-less guitar noodling, the hi-hat comes in and clicks the intro track into a somber groove, the kind of groove the comprises the majority of the album. It’s something of a statement, though not made with any words. By the time the falsetto vocals slip into the mix you are already well aware of what kind of band you’re listening to.
For the most part, Team Tomb rides a mellow intensity throughout the album. The guitar licks, performed by Caleb Ian Campbell (formerly of the Polycorns), are graceful, sometimes biting, but never reaching beyond the slinky pop rhythms the band has carved out for itself. In that same vein, the drums drive and propel the tunes with a sort of rhythmic certainty but never really crescendo. Behind it all, simple keyboard lines complete the aesthetic.
“Simmer down/Show your teeth,” sings Campbell on “Skin and Teeth,” suggesting an awareness of the subdued force underlying the album. It’s sentiments like these as well as the band’s ability and willingness to dip in and out of tempos that keep this modest album interesting. There’s something creepily sexy about these tunes. Think Radiohead’s “House of Cards” or, if you’re so inclined, Michael Jackson’s chorus on Rockwell’s “Somebody Watching Me.” The organ opening on “For Your Own Good” even recalls the Brooklyn band, Beach House, another group who has found and locked into its own brand of undemonstrative rhythm (the guitar line on that song is also reminiscent of Alex Scally’s work in the same band).
What sets the band apart is how well it blends all these components. It does so with restraint, and it does so with an eerie confidence. On first listen you probably wouldn’t assume that this was the band’s debut album. While some of the songs often get mired in their own gleeful restraint, particularly “For Your Own Good,” whose aforementioned Beach House sound feels somewhat out of place, the album manages to keep its cool up until the very end (though the concluding interlude feels like an excuse to make this already short album nine tracks instead of eight). That being said, most bands don’t find a signature sound until several EPs and LPs into a career; whereas, Team Tomb seems on the edge of doing just that on their first full-length. I guess that makes them “hot shit.”