Worker Bee - Tangler
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: January 11, 2010
On their first, full-length album, San Jose's Worker Bee dives headfirst into morose, melancholic art-rock. Album opener "Come Back," features mumbled vocals and sparse guitars. The smoky exercise is funereal, despondent and distant. In an effort to contrast that second track "Nesting," takes a more jittery and commercial approach with a tepid chorus that is borderline catchy. Things attempt to pick up on "When You Came Through," which features concertina-like drums and an envelope of dense, dusky sentiments. With percussive hiccups and nuanced guitarwork, fourth track "Cold Rats," is a focused, crackling vignette of a protagonist on the verge of a breakdown.
The narrative yarn "When You Came Through," finds a man giving into something sinful and scary, while "Rough Magic," returns to the distant haze of the opener but adds sampled bleats and cacophonous drums. "No Dreams," which closes out the disc's first half is a skilled exercise in how intricate guitars and an intimate vocal approach can speak volumes. Sparse, tender and arguably breathtaking "No Dreams," has a potency and panache that's impossible to emulate or fake. It is undeniably, raw talent on full display. Of all the songs on Tangler, none are better than this.
The latter half of the disc starts with "Frozen Game," a more urgent and inspired selection than any of the song's prior six. That trend is continued on the punchy "Lip Service," and the dreary "All Roads."The latter is dizzying and dense, while closer "Surface Eating Acid Bath," goes after something ponderous and percussive.
The entire vibe of Tangler is moody, melodramatic and maudlin. Whereas many bands would throw in everything but the kitchen sink, this quartet accomplishes a bevy of emotions without doing much of anything. This is straightforward, unadorned, unfiltered mood rock. With the exception of a few samples and electronic blips, most everything here is accomplished with just guitar, bass and drum. That minimalism is something the band made an effort to hone in on when recording this.
And though that bare-bones approach certainly deserves some credibility, there's not enough engaging material here to label this disc as something indelible and wholly impressive. A lack of surging choruses, some rather bleak verses and an envelope of doom and dread, plague much of this effort. And yet for all it's missteps, Tangler still has one of the more engaging and alluring songs of recent memory in "No Dreams." That solitary feat makes Worker Bee a band worth watching in the months to come.