Forget Cassettes – Instruments of Action

Forget Cassettes
Instruments of Action

Come on now, folks. Two-person bands are no great new thing. A lot of folks marvelled that the White Stripes sounded so good with only two people. I remember thinking how odd it was that Local H had two members, and before that the Spinanes. I’m sure in my own ignorance I’m missing a plethora of two-member bands from the early days of rock. So the fact that Forget Cassettes is only two people – Beth Cameron on vocals and guitar and Doni Schroeder on drums and Rhodes – really matters little, mainly because, unlike much of the White Stripes’ material, the band doesn’t SOUND like it has two people.
Rather, Cameron and Schroeder, who played together in the band Fair Verona, have put together a surprisingly tight, loud, and impressive debut album. With Mike McCarthy (Spoon, …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead) at the helm, the band recorded almost all of these songs in analog to catch the feeling of their live performance, and that leads me to expect a tremendous live show, because Forget Cassettes rocks hard, with tight-knit precision that may be the best benefit to having only two people in a band.
After a moody, somber start, Instruments of Action kicks into gear on “Accismus,” with Cameron’s voice recorded distant behind guitar and light chimes and breaking into more emphatic singing as rough, edgy guitars and pummelling drums break in, even as the song maintains a kind of loud/soft dynamic throughout. At eight minutes, the song can be lulling and quiet one moment, loud and intense the next, and it shows this band’s unique approach. On “A Legacy’s Demise,” Cameron reminds me of some of the best female rock singers, from the Pixies to Sonic Youth.
It’s rare to find a band that can play so loud and so intense yet similarly embrace minimalism in their songs. Many of these songs contrast quieter moments with louder, full-blast exclamations, and even the quieter moments are moody and urgent. The title track is a good example, sweet and light at times but with powerful, crashing crescendos as well. “I’m not scared to fight fire with fire / I burn my bridges down,” Cameron croons sweetly before the drums and guitars crash in. By contrast, she wails on the fiery intro to “Bruce Wayne” before a low, throbbing melody leads into a quieter song, and she wails again in the song’s brief bursts of intensity. One of the best songs here comes last, as “Scales” has long moments of guitar and drums and long moments of quiet, moody instrumentation and Cameron’s soft vocals.
Unlike many boring rock bands, this is not strictly guitar-based, riff-infused rock. The beats are stellar, often light and complex, and Cameron’s vocals are soothing and sweet one moment, then edgy and attitude-infused. This dichotomy is brought out well on “Ms. Rhythm and Blues.” Still, there’s the straight-ahead rock songs, like the stellar “Like Tiny Swords,” a catchy and low-tuned rock effort.
Instruments of Action is an excellent debut from a talented band. With only two people, Forget Cassettes proves to be extra tight and the members well tuned to each other. It results in edgy yet still in control rock, loud yet tight and precise. It’s powerful yet moody, and Cameron’s vocals tie everything together wonderfully.