TAB the Band - Zoo Noises
Record Label: North Street Records
Release Date: January 26, 2010
TAB the Band takes all the staples of each decade’s own brand of rock; the cheese of the 60s, the sleaze of the 70s, the doltish simplicity of the 80s, and the shameless infectiousness of the 90s; and melds it together in a predictable, formulaic, and, admittedly, undeniably catchy manner with Zoo Noises. The band’s inclination toward popular blues- and classic rock is palpable, and its tendency to emulate the mainstream audience’s best surface-scratch of 70s garage rock is indubitable. They took the cliffnotes of a half-century’s worth of rock history and wrote them into the most immediately recognizable, bite-sized riffs, chord progressions, and vocal melodies. In other words, TAB the Band is a parody of itself.
Some of today’s most revered artists – in fact, practically all of them – have taken volumes of pages out of their musical heroes’ books: The Tallest Man on Earth does Dylan with a hint of folk-guitar genius. New Found Glory grew into pop-punk posterboys by doing their best Promise Ring impression. Hell, Jesse Lacey practically used Morrissey as a crutch for years. Don’t let the pretentious artists out there fool you; there have been very few musicians in history that created a sound, style, or idea entirely their own.
But with Zoo Noises, TAB the Band brings the thickly laid classic rock influences into the writing process, a surefire way to water down an otherwise sonically pleasing and well-executed album. It’s one thing to gravitate toward a specific sound, but quite another borrow the sound and style altogether and let it direct the song-crafting process.
That conclusions starts to draw itself immediately as the album opens with “It’s Over,” a short, minute-and-a-half-long intro based around an old country-style acoustic guitar riff. As the guitar reeks of a 1950s Western flick, the vocals mimmick, note-for-note, harmony-for-harmony, in as bland a manner as a band could think up. “Be My Valentine” follows with a fuzzy guitar riff that is just all-encompassing enough to be interesting for about 20 seconds, but abrasive enough to make your eardrums want to pop themselves by the two-minute mark.
Following the mercifully short track is “Bought and Sold,” a straight-up rocker with all the attitude of the 60s’ take on rock-and-roll…and all the typical and formulaic rhythms and melodies that go with it. The anchoring guitar riff and vocal pattern both sound so familiar that they almost sound like rock staples; it sounds like something so widely used that you can’t quite attribute it to any one person or band, but you know it has existed in the realm of electric guitar-driven music since its very introduction into the mainstream.
And it seems almost every track on Zoo Noises shares that quality. It’s as if TAB the Band took the demonstration “rock” samples from their recording interface and ran with them. Just like “Bought and Sold,” the riff and shadowing vocal pattern of “Old Folks Home” has been reinterpreted for decades. Similarly, the acoustic-based chord progressions in “Drink a Cuppa Poppy” and “A Girl Like You” have been realized, forgotten, and rehashed since the Pete Seeger was blacklisted from television for being a member of the American Communist party.
It’s clear that TAB the Band knows enough about rock history to cast a distant shadow on its legacy. But it does so without bringing a single thing new to the table. A revivalist record, if you can call Zoo Noises that, is nothing without a modern-day reason to listen; an original approach to interspersing vocals and classic rock-esque guitar riffs, for example, would have brought the album to a much higher level. There is potential, relentless energy, and a palpable sense of honesty in this band’s third LP. But, unfortunately for this Boston band, all that is diminished throughout the Zoo Noises listening experience by the nagging back-of-the-mind question: Haven’t I heard this before?