The problem with describing music with a term like “dance rock” is that it seems more descriptive of effect than cause. In other words, is it dance rock if the crowd doesn’t get moving? My sense is that the term is frequently used by proponents and detractors alike in a manner similar to calling music “fun,” as a way of either celebrating or dismissing cheesed-out keyboard lines and vapid lyrics. There’s a similar tendency to throw out the term post-punk with reckless abandon, as an all-purpose descriptors for any modern rock music with a decent bass line and offbeat guitar work.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, as I’ve been trying to put to words why I like Tempo No Tempo so much more than some of the other groups that they’ve been lumped together with or compared to under the post-punk/dance rock umbrella. Last year, the Berkeley-based quartet self-released the acclaimed The Get Down EP, which charted well on local radio and won them attention from online media like Pitchfork. The band now returns with a new EP entitled Repetition, out November 13th on Double Negative Records, and all signs suggest it will be another hit for this momentum-gathering band.
If too many of the dance rock bands obsess in creating slick, shiny songs, Tempo No Tempo separates itself with an ability to embrace noisier and darker sounds while keeping things driving and melodic. It’s a skill that reminds me of Washington, D.C.‘s now-defunct Q and Not U, a band that similarly mixed synths and guitars and threw in enough musical and lyrical curveballs to make you think while you were dancing. As was the case with their predecessor, TNT’s instrumental grit compliments well the insistent, emotive vocals of Tyler McCauley and Chris Cadena. “Irregular Heartbeats,” from Repetition, demonstrates well the band’s skill at electrified bursts of melodic frenzy and it’s likely this song will be getting Bay Area folks moving at the band’s upcoming CD release show.
If that sound is what’s grabbed the band the most attention, both EPs demonstrate that this is a young group that’s not easily pidgeonholed into a single sound. The new record’s title track makes this clear, starting with a “Marquee Moon”-esque guitar line that opens into a strong midtempo mix of traditional pop and indie rock. It’s exciting to watch this band continue to define itself and evolve, all the while writing some very engaging music.
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