Black Tambourine

To fully understand where Washington D.C.’s Black Tambourine were coming from when they released their first recordings in 1989, you would need to backtrack a few years earlier to the briefly buzzing C86 scene in England. The biggest indie bands in Britain at the time were the Jesus and Mary Chain, fresh off the heels of their monstrously influential debut Psychocandy, and everyone’s favorite jangle pop bedsit poets The Smiths. Those two acts inspired a wave of followers who were enamored with the Mary Chain’s impossibley catchy buzzsaw pop and the sensitive yet substantive genius of Morrissey/Marr (my generation’s Lennon and McCartney). NME magazine documented these fellow travelers on a compilation cassette entitled C86, which included the likes of the very early Primal Scream, Wedding Present, Shop Assistants, a very different sounding Soup Dragons (pre Madchester!), and The Pastels. Black Tambourine were one of the first, if not the first, American bands to respond to these heavenly British sounds. On initial listens, Black Tambourine, who included future members of Lilys and Velocity Girl, and consisted of Mike Schulman, Archie Moore, Brian Nelson and Pam Berry, come across as an American answer to The Shop Assistants with Berry’s pristine girl group style melodies soaring over an infectious noise pop sound, but that’s only part of the story. The group was totally schooled in the art of songwriting — “For Ex-Lovers Only” and “Throw Aggi Off The Bridge” are especially potent with heartfelt lyrics and fuzz galore. One clue to the band’s excellence could be their supreme taste in music. Their cover of Love’s “Can’t Explain” is mesmerizing, while the lovely “Drown” is a doo wop throwback that brings to mind something like “Beyond The Sea” or “Sea of Love.” Sadly, Black Tambourine only recording nine songs in their brief existence on a selection of 7” singles and compilations for Slumberland (one of Schulman’s first releases!), Spin Art, and Audrey’s Diary. These tracks were compiled for 1999’s Complete Recordings collection, along with the previously unreleased “I Was Wrong.” Black Tambourine, however, trumps that collection with the inclusion of six more songs, four of them recorded in 2009 by a reunited and rejuvenated lineup, which consist of two originals, as well as covers of Suicide and Buddy Holly. While Black Tambourine never made it big their status remains near legendary in indie pop circles, one only has to listen to Pains of Being Pure at Heart or Dum Dum Girls to witness this.(slumberlandrecords.com)

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