Music Reviews
Tarot Sport

Fuck Buttons Tarot Sport

(ATP Recordings) Buy it from Insound Rating - 6/10

I bought the Fuck Buttons debut album, Street Horrrsing on a whim in the summer of 2008 while working at Ducky’s Office Furniture in Bellevue, Washington. I bought it at the same time that I bought one of the fancy Rhino reissues of Fun House, so when I got in the car to head home after a long day of pondering furniture there wasn’t really even a thought to which one would be blasting out of my speakers that day. I gave the Buttons a quick glance over listen that night, thinking it was interesting but being completely unable to imagine being in the mood for it. Fortunately I was scraping giant letters off the storefront the next day, and it led me to discover a bizarre, restlessly creative album that, for all its incoherent screams, distorted ambient drones, and ten minute monotonous beats, I couldn’t get out of my head.

Their follow up to that magnificently weird album comes in the shape of Tarot Sport, providing us with more strangely clingy tunes to kind of bob our heads to. It’s a far more accessible record than Horrrsing and gives off a much more dance oriented feel. It starts off with the now well worn single Surf Solar, which features the usual droning beat and distorted keyboards. It’s a decent enough song and it’s easier to move along to than anything on Horrrsing, but it also shows almost no artistic evolution. The next song, Ruff Steez, continues the static mindset of the band. Its tribal beat is nice enough and the chord changes in the keyboards are unexpected the first time they happen and pleasant every time after that, but it’s a near perfect parallel to the second track on their first album, Ribs Out.

Lisbon Maru follows, bringing an album highlight and a welcome change. It has a very peaceful feel to it, with a cool heartbeat at its core. They build tension nicely by actually letting the beat evolve over the song, something they don’t do often enough. The Lisbon Maru was a Japanese freighter used to transport POW’s during WWII. When it sank the prisoners tried to swim away and were shot. The way the tension builds in the song easily brings to mind the event occurring, a peaceful yet depressed ship suddenly having a catastrophe thrust upon it.

Olympians is the most accessible song that Fuck Buttons have released yet, but it feels like too much of a retread to be notable. In fact, the rest of the album with the notable exception of the final track's middle section sounds like a retread. The record is even arranged similarly. Surf Solar sounds a lot like Sweet Love for Planet Earth and Ruff Steez sounds a lot like Ribs Out. They are even similar lengths. Every song on the album seems to follow the same formula: start with a basic beat or drone, slowly add blasts of distortion over the first two minutes, let that pound on for the next six to eight, and then bring it all back to an ambient drone to segue into the next song. This allows for the albums to flow wonderfully, but also makes for a complete lack of variety. The whole album reveals Fuck Buttons not to be the creatively restless band I had pictured but rather an incredibly formulaic band content to sit back and fine tune their previous work. True, they have a formula no one else does. But it’s still a formula, and a pretty straight-laced one without a lot of growing room.

A lot of the songs are, objectively speaking, better (or at least more accessible) than those on Horrrsing, but gone is the noisy enthusiasm and weird experimentation that made them such a thrill in the first place. The album definitely has its moments, and the first half is very engaging, but they lose it in the long run. Ultimately, Tarot Sport feels too much like a clone to be considered anywhere near as good as its predecessor.