Album review: Fuck Buttons - 'Tarot Sport'

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

Album review: Fuck Buttons - 'Tarot Sport'

8 / 10 The way people toss around words like ‘experimental’ and ‘avant-garde’, you’d think they were important to still have any meaning. But trust [i]NME[/i], [a]Fuck Buttons[/a] aren’t avant-garde. Sure, their debut, 2008’s [b]‘Street Horrrsing’[/b], was a weird beast – a hybrid of the tropical wibble of [a]Black Dice[/a], the abrasive howls of [a]Wolf Eyes[/a] and the starburst kosmische of [a]Boredoms[/a], birthed from laptop, floor tom, myriad synthesizers and some kit apparently shoplifted from the Early Learning Centre. But what made [a]Fuck Buttons[/a] different was the way they approached their singular noise. They did this not to batter ears, or confound expectations. No, [a]Fuck Buttons[/a] 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 [b]‘Street Horrrsing’[/b] to ever-growing crowds, [b]‘Tarot Sport’[/b] marks a change, albeit one of increment. Much of what made [a]Fuck Buttons[/a]’ debut great remains: just listen to [b]‘Rough Steez’[/b], with its ridged waves of synth, quizzical robot squawks and clacking percussion; or [b]‘The Lisbon Maru’[/b], 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 – [a]Primal Scream[/a]’s 1991 classic [b]‘Screamadelica’[/b] was largely his handiwork – [b]Weatherall[/b] knows a bit about dancefloor motion. Thankfully, though, [a]Fuck Buttons[/a] haven’t just whacked a donk on it. Rather, songs like [b]‘Surf Solar’[/b] 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 [b]‘Tarot Sport’[/b] 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 [b]‘Olympians’[/b], a flowering of synthesizers and feedback crackle that could probably replace [b]‘Chariots Of Fire’[/b] in the ‘heroic score for slow-motion playback of sporting event’ stakes. This cinematic feel is a quality they share with sometime tourmates [a]Mogwai[/a], who soundtracked [b]Zinedine Zidane[/b] shoeing a football about a few years back. But whereas [a]Mogwai[/a]’s more recent work threatens to make a formula familiar, [a]Fuck Buttons[/a]’ fizzling DIY laboratory still has the invention and ingenuity to surprise.

[b]Louis Pattison[/b]

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