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Black Tambourine was one of the first (and finest) bands to grace the Slumberland catalog — the label’s reissue of their work collects all of the material from the short string of singles they released before moving on to other projects. Slumberland’s decision to collect and reissue the material is commendable — Black Tambourine’s work can truly be described as seminal, not only because the band’s members moved on to such excellent projects (Archie Moore and Brian Nelson to Velocity Girl, and Pam Berry to the Glo-Worms and the Castaway Stones), but also because the band’s sound practically defines the state of indie rock in the early ’90s, when many American bands were looking to Britain’s shoegazing trend for inspiration. As one might expect, Black Tambourine’s noisy guitars and ethereal female vocals tend to sound like a more conventionally indie pop-based warm-up to the blissful noise of Velocity Girl’s Copacetic — in fact, the material on Complete Recordings frequently surpasses Copacetic, with its shambling and C-86 influences lending it a purity and indie charm that was traded for focus and complexity at the onset of Velocity Girl’s career. The album also serves as a time capsule for the indie-pop culture of its contemporaries — there’s the inordinate number of songs about crushes, songs about crushes on Stephen Pastel (“Throw Aggi from the Bridge”), a high level of attention to British music, and all of the other indie-pop hallmarks that spread during the ’90s (as typified by some wonderfully nostalgic liner notes). It’s doubtful that too many of the bands that followed in this vein drew their inspiration specifically from Black Tambourine, but there’s still a heavy debt owed to them, and Slumberland’s reissue of Complete Recordings is an excellent way to pay it.

-Nitsuh Abebe,

Black Tambourine-COMPLETE RECORDINGS (1999)


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