Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport

Fuck Buttons released one of the most interesting and polarizing albums of 2008, one of several named on my end of the year list (which would undoubtedly have been published here if Optimistic Underground was running at the time) and a perennial physical overload to unwitting passengers in my car.  This October the English duo are set to blow faces off and disintegrate non-believers with the sonic asteroid they’ve named Tarot Sport.


Using the word epic to describe this music is beyond moot; it’s simply a given at this point.  Yet this fact does little to temper the unshakeable urge to invoke it – and feel it – on every listen.  This is the sort of thing epic was coined for.  Kicking off with the dancefloor earthquake of Surf Solar, expanded to 10 minutes from its early incarnation as a 7″ single, the album shouts its thesis from a mountaintop and gets moving at a breakneck clip.  With an insistent four on the floor beat and stocatto-spliced vocal clips there’s no wonder which of debut Street Horrrsing‘s tracks was the launch point for this sophomore triumph: shining, atmospheric, ass-shaking standout Bright Tomorrow.  Every track, though submerged in the same industrial crunch mana Fuck Buttons are known for, feels more breathable, open, dynamic and most of all catchy, than anything they’ve yet created.  Third track The Lisbon Maru gently (and subtly) conjures the pulsing power-surge key stabs from the debut’s stellar opening (and most popular) track Sweet Love For Planet Earth, swaddling the backbone in vacuumed reverb and what sounds like hundreds of damaged violins compressed into a small wind tunnel and dialing up the velocity throughout its run.

After this point the album transforms into pure, blissed out, pounding noisy nirvana.  Fourth track Olympians blasted its way to the top of my list, where it reigns with impunity, after only my first two listens.  Not content with merely teasing their dancefloor intentions or continuing to shy away from unabashed melody, this striking 10 minute centerpiece showcases everything Fuck Buttons do well and then some.  Finally delivering on the ambitious promise suggested all along, the moment is a revelation: a band fully coming into their own as artists and hitting an undeniably assured stride.  Nothing feels remotely tentative about the syncopated big beat drums beamed through the tonal cloud this song is born in, nor the manner in which every element seems to gather up, tightening into a coiled rhythmic outburst in anticipation of the mythical organ swells beginning three minutes in.  It’s a gorgeous night sky colored with soaring waves of heartrending resonance and shimmering supernovas, exploding out of the mix like galactic pop rocks – a transcendent meteor shower as close and tangible as the ‘play’ button.

Topping that monster would be difficult, if not impossible; the guys instead turn and unleash a funky blast of head clearing noise bop in a (relatively) concise 5 minutes, before diving into sonic rollercoaster Space Mountain (appropriately titled) with driving tribal percussion and twinkling keyboards ablaze.  A nearly-clean guitar tone drives the action, disintegrating in the atmosphere, enveloped in feedback, before giving way to the final push:  closer Flight of the Serpent and its destructive martial stomp.  Swooning UK post rock guitar moves over a clattering speed-march rhythm section, bursting with feedback at just the right moments and sharing the spotlight with a romantic organ pulse grown from Olympians‘ seed.  Feeling almost like a burly reprisal of that apex, the swarm of drone flies suddenly drop away at the halfway point, exposing the skeletal drum pattern and letting it hang, galloping along unadorned for several moments.  Thankfully, majestic crests of oceanic keyboard melody and shattering light beams of narcotic bliss return to guide the album to a satisfactorily dizzying end.

Watch this clip with the volume cranked to whet your appetite if my words haven’t already.

[and make sure to preorder the album at boomkat, norman records (vinyl!), or rough trade – or make your purchase at a local record shop when it drops on October 12]

16 thoughts on “Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport

  1. A couple of things make me definitely prefer the debut to this album, although as I’m sure you’ll agree Dave, both are pretty fucking awesome.

    Firstly, I just somehow think the new, more pop/melodic style doesn’t suit Fuck Buttons as well as wall-destroying noise. It’s certainly a less unique sound. Ackowledging the need to develop the Horrrsing sound somehow, I’m just not quite sure this is it. Yet.

    I also don’t think it quite reaches the sonic peaks you describe. It never quite tips me over the edge in the way that Street Horrrsing does. I realise this album is obviously designed to be more ‘subtle’, and it does work, it’s just I don’t think it’s ‘better’, for want of a better word!



    • Word. I’m probably in the minority feeling that Bright Tomorrow was the peak of the debut, but that’s why I get the fact out of the way early here. If you’re with me on that, you’re probably with me on the rest. I certainly don’t think the sound here is any less unique though, as I couldn’t picture any band doing this, much less with such skill.

      Admittedly there are the touchstones of other artists here (Boredoms in that last track in particular) but that only enriches the experience for me. I like the wall-crushing noise as much as anyone, but I felt other bands do that sort of thing better, and liked that FB expanded on a different aspect for this one. Regardless, following so soon on the heels of Street Horrrsing, I’m sure they’ve already got something else up their sleeves for the next outing. Perhaps a more equal blend of the destruction and the beauty?

      And yeah, I don’t know if I’d objectively say this album is “better” – but it certainly feels like progression to me, and when an album is fresh in mind, that tends to count for a lot.


      • Cool, you’re pretty much the first visitor! I only set it up the other day – waiting to add more archived stuff before I put the word out. But thanks, I appreciate that.

        Btw I hope you don’t mind me shamelessly copying your theme. And how did you hide the text over your header image? I can’t work it out!


        • I sort of did the same thing – built up a few posts before sharing it with the world. Worked out well, though I definitely need to work on promotion, as I don’t have as much traffic as I’d like.

          And no worries about the theme, I just found this to be a nice, clean and simple one. It works great. And as for hiding the text on my header image? I have no clue! It’s some error I guess, because I’ve been unable to actually view the text when I want to – and I can’t change the settings.


  2. Heh, fair enough then. Looks good without, I think.

    Anyway, I have you bookmarked as well. In case you were wondering, I got here via your last.fm shout on the Fuck Buttons page. That kind of thing, plus posting links on Facebook and Myspace pages probably works well. And using Twitter, if you’re on there and are able to attract a few followers to start off with. Which I don’t imagine would be a problem. Link to every post and it’ll snowball. But then you’ve been doing this a while and I’ve only started, so feel free to ignore all that.


    • Yeah, I do spread my links around last.fm but I don’t push it so much on FB or myspace – maybe I should. And I do have a twitter (used to have a twitfeed on this blog, but it’s mostly inane ramblings) which I honestly should update every time I post. Thanks for reminding me..

      I may have been doing this for a little while, but I still feel incredibly new at it. Several of the blogs in my blogroll are by friends of mine, and you can see their professionalism. Especially Shot By Both Sides, where I love the layout. And Super Awesome Guy has been trying to help me improve this thing as well.

      Anyway where is that magazine you write for sold? I don’t believe I’ve seen it in stores.


    • Oh you’re in for a treat then, the new album is a monster, and has already surpassed the debut in my opinion. It’s incredibly fun to blast loud in a car, as well – passersby couldn’t look more bewildered. And of course, it pounds like no other.


  3. This is the first album I’ve heard of theirs and I’m only halfway through the album. So far I have been completely astounded by the experience FB is putting me through. It is an amazing piece of work and I can’t imagine just how much better the debut is if this is considered their “lesser” work.

    By the way, this was a very well-written review, I must say. It was an enjoyable read that kept my attention throughout.


    • Thank you, I’m glad my writeup was enjoyable to read – it’s what I hope and aim for.

      As for the album, I certainly do not consider this their “lesser” work at this point. Some of the comments left here (or elsewhere online) may give that impression, but as for my personal opinion, this is a step above the debut.

      Definitely check the first album out, though. It’s more noisy and primal, less beat-driven.. just a different experience, though not that different. Fuck Buttons pretty much have this sound all to themselves.

      Thanks again!


  4. Pingback: BEST OF 2009 « Optimistic Underground

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