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Tallboys - Scallywag Tag

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Artist: Tallboys

Album: Scallywag Tag

Label: Jak Attak

Review date: Apr. 8, 2004

“Sects & Strangers,” the centerpiece of the Tallboys' debut EP, is a shambling short chunk of perfect punk rock, another hint that New York guitar rock is in its best shape in years. It's loose, simple, dark and funny. Built around the squealed chorus, “We'll face the danger / Sex with a stranger,” it gallops for two and a half minutes, dragging along the abstract lyrics and rattling guitars. The other four songs on Scallywag Tag almost measured up, but it's a tough balance to strike.

Sheila Sixteen's straining vocals take the lead. She's deadpan and excitable at the same time, fitting long lines into tight spaces and finding rhythm in conversational lines. It's fairly reminiscent of both Mark E. Smith of the Fall and Fred Schneider of the B-52s, two bands Tallboys seem indebted to. Set apart from their commercial fates, the early Fall and the early B-52s shared something. One band was a downer; one a party band. Yet they both heaped on irony, detachment and retro musical ideas. Tallboys' dry guitars, blunt riffs, and bitter lyrics push towards eccentricity, but the beats can bob heads. They've got a giddiness that overtakes the darker parts of the music.

Tallboys have personal and stylistic ties to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Perhaps determined to take advantage of the recent hype, their songs feel rushed and incomplete. However, after the bassoon-like bass riff opening “They Came by Night,” it's clear Tallboys have some fascinating weirdness in reserve. A full-length is due later this year, and hopefully that weirdness can keep up with their brash sense of fun.

By Ben Donnelly

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