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The Haul 2010: Fuck Buttons' Tarot Sport

9. Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport 2LP – All Tomorrow’s Parties, 2009 – $18 (Newbury Street Newbury Comics, 1/22)

Fuck Buttons' Tarot Sport

When I heard Fuck Buttons’ widely acclaimed debut LP, Street Horrrsing, I was more excited by what it hinted at, not what it was. The insistent synth bass and tinkling effects of “Sweet Love for Planet Earth” and the trance-inducing build-up of “Bright Tomorrow” foreshadowed more polished efforts. Remixes of “Sweet Love” and “Colours Move” by Andrew Weatherall and Mogwai respectively demonstrated how excellent Fuck Buttons’ material could be when removed from the rhythmic clutter and haphazard yelling of Street Horrrsing. Presumably Fuck Buttons themselves felt inspired by these remixes, since they tasked Weatherall with producing the follow-up album, Tarot Sport.

Pardon me if you were disappointed by the lack of abrasive noise on Tarot Sport—I know some people were—but there aren’t many cases when I feel like a group delivers exactly what I was hoping for with a follow-up LP. It’s an absolute thrill. (Other examples: Bottomless Pit’s Congress EP and Tungsten74’s Binaurally Yours.) I knew Tarot Sport wouldn’t be entirely free of the noise fetish from Street Horrrsing, and “Rough Steez” and “Phantom Limb” provide a more controlled take on that style, so I’m willing to bring them along for the ride to break up the string of epic jams.

When I say exactly what I was hoping for, I’m selling Fuck Buttons short, since I did not anticipate just how great “The Lisbon Maru,” “Olympians,” and “Flight of the Feathered Serpent” (in particular—the whole album is superb) would be. The forthcoming comparison may also sell them short, since Mogwai is one of the group’s noted influences, but these songs reminded me more of hearing “Mogwai Fear Satan” for the first time than anything else released since 1997. Compositionally they pull off the same trick—anchoring epic songs with basic melodies, then sending them flying into space—but do so with different instrumental palettes. Plenty of post-rock bands cribbed the wrong notes from “Mogwai Fear Satan,” incorporating flutes into their crescendo rollercoasters, but that’s just a lazy facsimile (likely driven by the fact someone in the group played flute in high school) focused on the details, not what made the original great. In the vaguest, most infuriating terms possible, “Mogwai Fear Satan” sent me somewhere else. It’s that feeling Fuck Buttons captures, not the road signs or the exit ramp to the eventual destination.

Each song captures it with a different tack. “The Lisbon Maru” offsets the propulsion of its electronic pulses and martial drumming with a hint of resignation before letting that feeling disappear amidst a cloud of distorted keyboards. “Olympians” hints at the slow-motion triumph of Vangelis’ theme to Chariots of Fire, even though its BPM is club-ready. “Flight of the Feathered Serpent” drops out midway through its escalating climb to demonstrate the potency of its background counter melody—the one you might have missed lurking under the pounding beats. These are specific moments of transcendence—a word I don’t use lightly—bound to the overall arcs of their songs.

Where do Fuck Buttons go from here? Who knows. I don’t have a specific destination in mind. Mogwai’s career presents the most logical option: gradually trading transcendent wonder for increased instrumental prowess and compositional confidence, thereby creating solid albums with fewer moments of awe-inspiring brilliance. Plenty of options are worse than longevity and stature. All I hope for right now are more moments like “Flight of the Feathered Serpent”—figuratively, not literally, of course.

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