Black Tambourine – Complete Recordings

Black Tambourine
Complete Recordings

Black Tambourine, a name that might only ring a bell with a few true fans of independent rock, and I don’t mean independent rock today, but indie rock years ago. For Black Tambourine have long since broken up, and this is the only release that sums up their three seven-inches and a few other tracks. But, if I say names like Belle and Sebastian, Sonic Youth, Built to Spill, oh, you name it, well, then you’d know what I’m talking about. You can hear elements of Black Tambourine in all of those bands, and it’s easy to see how this relatively obscure band could have influenced today’s finest indie bands.
Black Tambourine started in 1989, when grunge and harder rock were getting more popular, but they drew their sound from the 1960s and the UK indie scene. They played just a few shows in and around Washington, DC. Members went on to Glo-Worm, Velocity Girl, The Heartworms, Whorl, The Magpies and other bands.
“For Ex-Lovers Only” has an amazing drum beat, and singer Pam Berry’s vocals are deeply echoed. You can just hear the guitars wailing away in the background. This song has a dark, almost gothic feel, and when the vocals are doubled up during the chorus, you can hear hints of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Throwing Muses, and other early 90s moody rock bands. “Black Car” still has those echoed vocals, but the sonic wash of guitars here are much clearer, and this song moves at a slower but no less urgent pace. Oh, those amazing deep drums and that sonic blast of guitar, what a unique sound, and how well they set the stage for “Pack You Up.” There’s a much more poppy feel on their next tracks, like “Can’t Explain” and “I Was Wrong,” with the guitars more electric than fuzzed out and a resonating bass line, but the vocals are still dark and moody and brooding, powerful because of the mood they convey. “Throw Aggi Off the Bridge” has some lighter vocals, still echoed but less gothically dark, showing some of the pop that influenced Belle and Sebastian and similar bands. “Drown” is almost an uplifting song, with a lilting, flowing pop style. But it’s clear this is the same band, from the layered, echoed vocals and the heavy drums that set the stage for this poppy song. “By Tomorrow” is very mellow and sad, but it has a poppy rhythm and an excellent bass line that overlaps everything else. Then there’s a mostly throwaway music loop called, humorously enough, “Pam’s Tan.”
So will everyone love Black Tambourine today? They should. Should everyone own the few and only recordings from Black Tambourine? Yes, they definitely should. Because listening to this band is like listening to a comforting sound from a few years back that you didn’t even know of at the time. It’s evident how many other bands took a page from Black Tambourine in crafting their own fine indie rock music. But hear it from the source first.