Monday, March 17, 2014

CASSETTE REVIEW: Pleasure Gap “Tropical Barn” (Nomadic Behavior Records)

                If you’re going to listen to music on cassette, there are two simple guidelines, which when combined, help you in selecting the perfect fit for tape.   The first thing you need to determine is whether or not the music itself is good because, well, no one wants to listen to something that feels like poison to their ears.   Then you must determine whether or not the music sounds good on cassette, as there are several bands that while good in their own rights simply might not sound best when produced on cassette.

                On “Tropical Barn”, we are treated to something that sounds like Violent Femmes right off but has hints of other bands including but not limited to The Hold Steady, Canterbury Effect and Cloud Nothings.   It’s somewhat folk punk, but also just rocks.    I dare to call it folk punk rock, but I’m not sure even those three holds can rightfully embrace all of this awesome.

                As the songs go on, especially as the second side begins, we hear a more acoustic side and even in the vocals a bit of Neil Young comes out.   I’m not sure the proper proportions, as to whether this would be Neil Young covering Violent Femmes or vice versa, but Neil Young has been one of my longstanding heroes of music and the Violent Femmes have been one of my favorite bands since the day I first heard them.

                I also realize that throwing out a reference to Violent Femmes makes most people probably jump right to “Blister in the Sun”, but Pleasure Gap has the Violent Femmes sound that is anything other than their best known song(s).    Which leads me to remark that Violent Femmes is obviously cassette appropriate music, and even though Neil Young debuted on vinyl (He is one of my few exceptions when buying records because I don’t like to buy them a lot) he has a certain cassette attitude feel if only because I was introduced to him by Pearl Jam who are total cassette era.

                I’d also like to take a minute right now to say something about song lyrics and song titles.   Bands seem to think that they can name a song “Song Title One” and then just repeat those words over and over in the chorus, thus making the obvious connection and not really offering up too much creativity or originality.   Every other band that has lyrics needs to take notice with Pleasure Gap, as their first song references “The creep in the corner” on several occasions, and yet despite what I thought, no, it is not the song title.    Just another one of those little points that needed to be made in terms of bands and how songs can be written optimally, you know, if that’s your thing.

                The five songs on “Tropical Barn” are great not only because they primarily combine two of my biggest musical influences, but because they just flat out rock and have all of the qualities of that which is good without any of the bad.   Given their influences, they are very much appropriate for cassette and do sound optimal on this format if only because they could be a band out of time.   I wouldn’t peg Pleasure Gap as a grunge band, but they do have a certain outsider grunge appeal where they’d be from that time frame or maybe a little bit earlier, but yet would still be embraced by the grunge crowd without sounding like Pearl Jam, Nirvana or any of the other staples.        

                Something like this doesn’t come along often, but when it all clicks like this, when the first and second tests are passed to create the third and ultimate reason to listen to cassettes, well, it becomes the best reminder as to why I prefer cassettes so much and in many ways over the past few years have seemingly fallen in love with music all over again.

"Tropical Barn" is available from the small independent record label Nomadic Behavior Records (, who are based out of Maine.  The direct link to purchase the tape can be found here:

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