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Positive Feedback ISSUE 50
july/august 2010

music

 

White Belt Yellow Tag
by Michael Mercer

white belt album

Methods, Distiller Records

All bands exhibit their musical influences, which are unavoidable. You absorb your surroundings and put that into your art. Nobody would (or, should rather) fault a band for sounding like their favorite artists. Being completely original is next to impossible these days (but not totally) as the focus on substance seems to have shifted to technology; and what an artist can do to the sound in order to give themselves an authentic stamp. That can work, if the raw talent, the raw drive, is there. Unfortunately more and more bands seem to be relying on the sounds of their influences combined with new technologies and the results can turn out soulless. If the soulless junk tops the charts however, or sells a hot new car, well, the record labels have no problem promoting and marketing junk. It is a business after all. One of the worst things of late has been the overuse of the word "vintage" with regard to rock bands. I mean; are we talking about wine or music?

Every now and then however, amongst the stack of demos, EPs, and LPs, an album will shine through in a way that reminds you of the reasons why you got into music in the first place. For me, there are plenty of reasons, but one of them is the connection I feel to the music; the lyrics, the melody, the way the sounds makes me feel, as if the artist is singing and playing what's in my brain (or, what needs to be playing through my brain at the moment). White Belt Yellow Tag's Methods is one of those records. This band does not sound like they are making music for the licensing or for MTV. They sound like they make music because they have no other choice, and that's a band I want to know.

White Belt Yellow Tag sound like the bands of my youth (early U2 comes to mind first and foremost, when they were truly great). Their music is emotive and driving. The choruses soar, with either pain or pleasure. "Remains" soars like Unforgettable Fire, that piercing guitar, the notes floating like an early morning drive after the best party. This music is hopeful, and I think we could all use a bit of that today. They are not afraid to unleash their anguish, seemingly singing either to themselves, or a friend who's lost their way on "You're Not Invincible." This record feels personal, not like something banged out with a Red Bull commercial in mind, getting lost in the limitless, talentless world of Autotune (killing rock-n-roll today, in my opinion, while it has its place and time). They craft wonderful collective melodies on "We All Have Sound"; their voices escalating as the drums pound, stirring all sorts of emotions and memories. This band knows how to go there. As some of my friends say; "they ain't scared." This may sound silly, but imagine if The Breakfast Club was written and filmed today. Well; this would be the soundtrack (apologies to all non-Breakfast Club devotees).

The sound is also surprisingly good. That's another drawback to a lot of this current pop fodder; it lacks all dynamics. Engineers seem to think they have to mix down to mp3 players, just like everybody thought they were making great sounding pop records in the 80's mixing down on Yamaha NS-10ms (but everyone's not Phil Ramone). You can make a killer sounding album, and worry about all that crap later! White Belt Yellow Tag have done so here, and if that's by accident that perfectly fine too. Methods is a dynamic record, even at low listening levels. The voices are detailed, the tonalities captured wonderfully. The guitar and drums have power and presence, making this an excellent album for the reference system as well, or, at least it's sounding great in my room right now. You can Google the band, or check out their MySpace page (yes, it still exists, for music anyway). Check these guys out. These Brits just bring honest pop music to the table. If that's your cup of tea, have a listen!

 

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