Tarot Sport

15.10.09

Low-key opener Surf Solar starts up, all glitter and totally out of this world. A resolute beat kicks in, overwhelming the intro, and suddenly it becomes clear that Fuck Buttons make immersive sounds that you can actually dance to. Derren Brown recently wanked off about ‘deep maths’ on his underwhelming lottery show. ‘The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe’ referenced a ‘deep magic from the dawn of time’…Well, this is deep trance, and it feels like it’s from beyond the dawn of time. It’s beguiling – perhaps not deep-deep, but compared to the jerky, rusty fuzz of ‘Street Horrrsing’ it’s pretty introspective stuff, and by no means unwelcome.

‘Tarot Sport’ sees Messrs Hung and Power exchange drone n’ hum for sanguine electronica, and hoary crackle for house rhythms. Oh, and they’re not afraid of a bit of full-on percussion either. Andy Weatherall has most certainly worked some magic on the Fuck Buttons formula; attention to detail being essential on an album which explores new horizons without sacrificing the hooks – while seemingly stripped-back; record number two is actually an intelligent, multilayered experience. This baby, by removing much of the pure noise influence, is a slow, seductive beast, shaking off some of the limitations of Fuck Buttons’ admittedly lovable brand of ‘party-noise’.

There are elements of the lads’ first effort from time to time; the somewhat annoyingly-titled Rough Steez is rife with rumble and fuzz, broken up with screeches and percussive pops and clicks but, by and large, this is pretty much a dance record, rather than a dance-infused noise piece.

Lisbon Maru is a highlight – moving, anthemic, and the ideal accompaniment to a sunrise watched during a comedown…if only Orbital’s Belfast hadn’t already provided the same service so admirably in the ‘Human Traffic’ soundtrack. A stirring march surfaces: drums are free of distortion, light on effects – pure. One of the most appealing aspects of ‘Tarot Sport’ is the way it works as whole; movements within tracks blurring with the separate movements that are the tunes themselves. Lisbon Maru segues effortlessly into Olympians, its driving New Order beat making way for uplifting organ, dissolving into unexpected dancefloor warmth, while drums that were once fidgety become subtly cinematic. Even when things become choppier, in the tribal phase of Phantom Limb or the Pacific State-like tropical blips of Flight of the Feathered Serpent, Fuck Buttons’ new-found fluidity never ceases.

So, do Fuck Buttons have less of an ‘edge’ now? Admittedly, without the tooth-grinding buzz-saw hooks and squeals, some of the immediacy of the first record is lost – and perhaps a little of the fun too. But you know what? I’m tired of being told that everything, from breakfast cereal to car insurance, should be ‘fun’. Fuck ‘fun’ – this is a real step forward, a revelation. It may be slicker but it’s by no means soulless. Never would I normally encourage an act to drop the noise; to tone down the harshness – but here it works, mainly because it’s free of pretention, honest and truly personal. The ‘more mature’ second record is no less of a lazy cliché than the ‘difficult’ one – but this is evidence of serious introspection and development, and shows a natural evolution into something less esoteric and of the moment – and most importantly more organic. It is as if Fuck Buttons have found their groove.

For more about edgy, noise/indie bands check out Ruth’s piece about Turnstile