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Videotape
This Is Disconnect
Self-Released; 2012

Rock music from the ‘90s can be seen through one or two primary prisms. Grunge (and the onslaught of corporate copycats) serves as the foremost touchstone for most of us  - Nevermind truly was the last breakout album that could concretely define an era. But for others, the decade heralded the arrival of second-wave punk and emo (Fugazi, Green Day, Rites of Spring, Braid, etc), while some prefer to talk about seminal indie acts like Pavement, My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr, and Guided By Voices. While each of these sounds has experienced a revival in recent years (though the sludgy morass that is post-grunge has never left mainstream alternative rock radio), they each hold the idea of “pop” in high regard, regardless of how deconstructed it might have become.

And this is the turf upon which Videotape stands – no matter how bent, twisted, or reconstituted it might appear on the surface, there’s nothing wrong with a sharp pop hook and pleasing melody. Throughout the whole of This Is Disconnect, this Chicago quintet creates quintessential indie-pop distilled through a dense haze of fuzzed-out garage rock glory. Calling to mind a delicious mixture of Pixies, The Breeders, and Spiritualized, this ten-song album displays a profound penchant for straight-ahead rock of the post-punk and art-school variety: blues and country motifs need not apply.

Big, overdriven guitar tones carry the day, as hook-laden lead riffs provide the necessary flavor for the strong rhythm guitar chugging. I’m also quite enamored with the lustrous female vocals, as a dreamy alto reminiscent of the Deal Sisters, Mazzy Star, Dee Dee (of Dum Dum Girls), and Frankie Rose manages to pierce the guitar fog and wrap you up in a warm embrace.

For all of the accolades I could assert, I really should mention my concern over the album’s flow. Specifically, this could easily have been two entirely separate EP’s, split right down the middle. Led by “No One” and “Between Me & You,” the first 5 tracks have this tough, kinda no-nonsense garage rock zest about them, while the second 5 are large, airy, and definitely shoegaze in tone, as heard on “Form” and “Digest.” Both halves are equally good in terms of song quality, but they almost don’t fit as a coherent, complete musical thought.

Then again, the album is called This Is Disconnect, so maybe the thrust of the album is to highlight dichotomy as a viable part of reality that we need to accept. Not everything is supposed to fit in safe, pre-determined boxes. And I guess I can be OK with that (though categorizing things touches a very particular place in my psyche), especially with a record this good. Balancing resonant and shiny with grand and gritty, Videotape has made a batch of timeless guitar-pop songs that could have come straight out of the ‘60s or ‘90s with effervescent ease.