Out of the Garden
Holy 1994!! This is all I could think of when I first heard “Control Me” from Out of the Garden, Tancred’s third album. This was my introduction to Tancred, Jess Abbott’s apparent side project. Who is Jess Abbott? Well, all I know is that she plays (or played?) guitar for Now, Now, whose 2012 album Threads was my #10 pick of that year (see here). However, this does not sound like a side project. Instead it sounds like a well-rehearsed and seasoned rock trio who were raised on a heavy dose of “alternative rock” radio. The best music is able to transport one’s mind to another place or time or emotion and this album transports me directly to the early to mid-90s – the time after Nirvana’s big breakthrough and major record labels (remember those?) were signing any band who employed loud guitars and pop hooks to huge contracts. This is not a slight, as Tancred have captured the best of those times with genuine energy, direct coming of age lyrics, and fantastically abrasive guitars.
Tancred utilize the loud/quiet/loud approach that Nirvana used so well, but then if you throw in the buzzing and bright melodies of bands such as Veruca Salt, The Breeders, Julianna Hatfield, and the under-appreciated That Dog (whose Anna Waronker co-produced this album) it all comes alive and sounds as vibrant and exciting as ever. Abbott is an amazing and versatile guitarist and this trio sound like they are having fun with these songs, which is contagious.
The three-minute pop numbers like the opening trio of “Bed Case,” the drum overloaded in-the-red bursts of “Joey,” and “Control Me” all sound FM radio ready and are as endlessly catchy as anything of its kind and fun as hell. But it’s the more complex and darker tunes like “Not Likely” and the guitar only “Hang Me” that give this album some balance and variety. There is an abundance of sexual euphemisms, disgust, work angst, and a newly discovered confidence all over Abbott’s lyrics and this is all best encapsulated in the explosive “Pens”, whose off-kilter verses careen into the oddball chorus of “I’m incredibly healthy in my head / It’s crazy how stable I am.”
The album fully blossoms for me on the second side. The quietly angry and confused “Hang Me” melds seamlessly into the album’s fastest and catchiest song “Sell My Head.” Then comes the dark humor of “Poise,” with a chorus to die for, or kill for, in this case. The closing “Pretty Girls” is both a deep album ender and a teaser that leaves us wanting more. What else can one ask for?
Tancred "Bed Case"