The seventh cut essentially sums up Tango in the Attic‘s debut album, Bank Place Locomotive Society: “Jackanory” sounds like something you’ve heard before. That is not to say that the song isn’t enjoyable, but it is to say that Tango in the Attic sounds like the Scottish child of Vampire Weekend and the Kooks. During the album’s more successful moments it succeeds in creating a more unique Tango in the Attic sound, showing that the band has the potential to flesh out a more distinct sound. The album opens with the harmony-laden “One Step Away,” which showcases Tango in the Attic’s ability to weave in and out multiple melodies to create a song that at once feels like a simple pop song and like a complex mesh of multiple guitars, keyboards, and/or multiple vocal layers. This low-key complexity is perhaps the band’s greatest strength over similar bands. The second track, “Off To,” manages to build up momentum with similar elements before “Seven Second Stare” gets by mostly on energy alone. On the ska-influenced “Sketch by Quentin Blake,” Tango in the Attic sounds perhaps a little too much like its influences, setting the tone for much of the middle portion of the album (I swear I can hear Ted Leo’s voice on “A Healthy Distraction”). “Whiskey in the Wind” has the same intonation as “Walcott” by Vampire Weekend (as if Tango in the Attic didn’t sound enough like them already). Bank Place Locomotive Society picks up steam again with its final three tracks. On “Blunderground,” Tango in the Attic’s backing vocals during the chorus make the song more anthemic than the work of similar artists. On the next track, “She Stole the Summer,” the harmony vocals have the opposite effect, creating a calmer atmosphere, in which the instrumental buildup towards the end is more powerful. Tango in the Attic best showcased their strengths in Bank Place Locomotive Society’s closing track, “The Letting Go.” Like “Blundergound,” it uses background vocals to create an anthemic feel, but masterfully uses the mesh of layers and negative space to lead into a dramatic conclusion.
Although it includes some songs that feel somewhat unoriginal, Bank Place Locomotive Society is enjoyable all the way through and includes enough songs displaying that Tango in the Attic possess a unique take on their genre. If they can develop and refine the elements, which stood out on their debut, they have the potential to record a classic album in the future.
-Robert Kaminski, host of Footnotes, Thursday 11pm-midnight