TAKEN BY CARS
Dualist (Party Bear)
Review by: Jason Caballa
LONG-AWAITED SECOND ALBUM BRINGS THESE LOCAL INDIE FAVES INTO EVEN WIDER SONIC TERRITORY
When Franz Ferdinand, The Killers, Bloc Party, and a whole new wave of new wave-sounding (pun intended) bands from both sides of the Atlantic started getting popular during the middle of the last decade, local music fans followed suit, and soon enough, bands with angular guitar lines and/or lush synths, and dance-y beats began to sprout from all over the archipelago. Most of these local outfits have been quite good, if not sufficiently catchy, but their biggest setback is that they tended to sound a little too much like their foreign counterparts. I shall refrain from enumerating bands names, but there have been at least a couple of local outfits that sound a lot like that Arctic Monkeys, one female-fronted trio set up exactly like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, a number of Killers copyists, one relatively new Bloc Party rip-off band and perhaps a dozen more similar groups that have yet to get any considerable airplay. Even my own band released a song (“Dizzy Boy”) that apes the riff of Franz Ferdinand’s “Michael,” but at least our singer never had a British accent. Still, a mini-scene of new wave/post-punk revivalists had emerge locally (even if they weren’t revivalists in the strictest sense since these bands were mostly influenced by current acts), even if their sound was a bit too arty for most young rock fans still weaned on emo.
And Taken By Cars came along, pretty much impressing fans of that particular style of music with their innate skill as musicians and songwriters. Their drummer could hold a steady dance groove down pat, but he could also inject agile fills and rolls without missing a beat, while their bass player could relentlessly keep up. The band’s two guitarist possessed wildly contrasting styles – one strummed trebly, jagged chords in a more post-punk vein, while the other made his Flying V sound like a synthesizer – and together, it made for some very interesting interplay. Finally, singer Sarah Marco – albeit no Aia De Leon, Kat Agarado, or even Karen O – instantly gave Taken By Cars some degree of uniqueness because she was female and didn’t remotely sound like anyone else, and what she lacked in range she made up for with ingenious lyricism. By itself, the lyric sheet of the band’s 2008 debut Endings Of A New Kind could pass for a chapter of abstract poetry, with lines like “Hide to keep silent / Run to get out” (“A week-night Memoir in High Definition”), or “Candid shot / A face to launch a thousand pieces of a dream” (“Logistical Nightmare”) that are as well put together as they are open to varying interpretations. And yet the music her bandmates were creating – a heady mix of post-punk, dance, indie rock, and dreampop – gave her words more conviction and vise versa, creating a musical sum that was bigger than each of its parts, so to speak. Furthermore, the band’s overall sound wasn’t evidently replicating anyone in particular. Sure, one could detect traces of New Order, Broken Social Scene, or even Minus The Bear during certain instances, but never for the duration of an entire song, or worse, an entire record. Consequently, Endings of A New Kind was widely praised by fans and (most) critics, and Taken By Cars have gone on to play several gigs in Singapore and Malaysia, and more recently, were listed as among the Five Asian Bands to Watch in 2010 in Time Magazine, no less.
Three years have more or less passed since the release of Endings, and Taken By Cars have finally released a proper follow-up, entitled Dualist. The quintet, however, had been performing a substantial amount of new material as early as 2009, so the more devoted followers have witnessed how the band’s sound has developed since then, especially with the addition of new, rock-solid bassist Isa Garcia. Still, Dualist opens with the propulsive “This Is Our City,” simultaneously reminding their listeners of their much-loved sound, and demonstrating how they’ve improved on their own formula. Actual synths also make their first appearance here, providing a hint of something new (and one will hear more of throughout the record). “Unidentified” is just as dance-able - if not more so – than any of the more upbeat tracks on their debut, but as it unravels, it becomes more obvious that the band are playing on an entirely different groove here – perhaps more LCD Soundsystem than Bloc Party, Marco also lets loose one of her most memorable choruses to date – “I’m not that into you, but I’ll keep dancing / Unidentified” – rivaling the previous album’s “A Weeknight Memoir” for potential chart supremacy. the plaintive, poignant “34″ is similar in the sense that it doesn’t sound too much like anything on Endings, but for some reason you recognize it as nothing else by a Taken By Cars song, and one of the better ones, if I may add.