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Album review: Fuck Buttons - 'Tarot Sport'

Electro duo's second is a lengthy affair - but it's more pop than avant-garde

The way people toss around words like ‘experimental’ and ‘avant-garde’, you’d think they were important to still have any meaning. But trust NME, Fuck Buttons aren’t avant-garde. Sure, their debut, 2008’s ‘Street Horrrsing’, was a weird beast – a hybrid of the tropical wibble of Black Dice, the abrasive howls of Wolf Eyes and the starburst kosmische of Boredoms, birthed from laptop, floor tom, myriad synthesizers and some kit apparently shoplifted from the Early Learning Centre. But what made Fuck Buttons different was the way they approached their singular noise. They did this not to batter ears, or confound expectations. No, Fuck Buttons sounded comfortable within their sound, at home in this whirl of giddy optimism and euphoria-tinted melodies. This was their pop music.

Recorded after a good 18 months spent playing ‘Street Horrrsing’ to ever-growing crowds, ‘Tarot Sport’ marks a change, albeit one of increment. Much of what made Fuck Buttons’ debut great remains: just listen to ‘Rough Steez’, with its ridged waves of synth, quizzical robot squawks and clacking percussion; or ‘The Lisbon Maru’, a martial gallop serenaded forth by a fanfare of electro feedback. But what is new here is a fresh sense of momentum. For that, you can largely thank producer Andrew Weatherall. Rockabilly punk, rave veteran and hands-on desk jockey – Primal Scream’s 1991 classic ‘Screamadelica’ was largely his handiwork – Weatherall knows a bit about dancefloor motion. Thankfully, though, Fuck Buttons haven’t just whacked a donk on it. Rather, songs like ‘Surf Solar’ feel plotted by a desire to make people move, symphonic epics that combine sky-chasing dramatics with four-to-the-floor rhythms.

The real secret of ‘Tarot Sport’ lies not in the beats, but in the tunes. These songs are long, not because it makes filling out an album easy, but because these melodies resolve in galaxy-spanning orbits – see ‘Olympians’, a flowering of synthesizers and feedback crackle that could probably replace ‘Chariots Of Fire’ in the ‘heroic score for slow-motion playback of sporting event’ stakes. This cinematic feel is a quality they share with sometime tourmates Mogwai, who soundtracked Zinedine Zidane shoeing a football about a few years back. But whereas Mogwai’s more recent work threatens to make a formula familiar, Fuck Buttons’ fizzling DIY laboratory still has the invention and ingenuity to surprise.

Louis Pattison

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8 / 10

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