Plucky Canadians, Tallies, re-invent the 80’s in a glittering jangle of joy.
Release date: 29/7/22
Label: Bella Union
Format: CD / Vinyl / Digital
Tallies, then? Pieces of wood scored across with notches for the items of an account and then split into halves, each party keeping one, or so I am told, but here they are so much more, even if they have clearly been guilty of keeping the score.
OK, a contrived start for this somewhat remarkable record, by this Canadian trio, world famous maybe only in Toronto, but it is hard to quite know otherwise how to introduce it. Indeed, possibly best heard blind, without the razzmatazz of reviews or foreknowledge, and, on doing, I would guarantee ears would raise, heads would nod and payment details be completed. For I defy any listener, certainly those born, say, between the 60s and the 70s not to latch on to this mix of the familiar and the partly forgotten. But for radios to play and playlists to feature, someone somewhere has to know who they are. Here’s your chance.
Tallies came about as singer and guitarist Sarah Cogan and guitarist Dylan Franklin, drawn together by their love of the music of the 80s and 90s, especially that produced here in the UK, the janglier the better, lashings of echo, reverb max on the drums and ethereal vocals. The Smiths, Aztec Camera, definitely Altered Images, yes please, and all the way onward into the idiosyncratic charm of the Cocteau Twins and their ilk. Especially their ilk. Logan had the voice, Franklin the gossamer guitar tones, so, when joined by the gargantuan drums of Cian O’Neill, they had a plan and lift-off. An eponymous debut release caught the ears of no less than Simon Raymonde, he of the Cocteau Twins and part also of the equally inspiring This Mortal Coil project. A man with, now, handily, both a record label, Bella Union, and track record in finding and releasing worthwhile new music. A hero and then their label boss!
Opener, No Dream Of Fayres is an immediate rush back to the heady days of the last decade of the last century, the mood heightened, should you need it, by the video below, with Cogan crate digging in a record shop, a giveaway in both the name of the store and the CDs in her hand. (You did recognise them, didn’t you?!?) The bubbling mono-syllabic bass is perfect, underpinning the chiming chorus pedal of the guitar and propulsively stuttering drums. And, yes, the vocals are very reminiscent, a blend of Clare Grogan and a touch of the more distanced chill of Elizabeth Fraser. A wondrous song, and a worthy single. It would have been a cracker back in the day. Still is. Spilling over with momentum, this leads straight on into Hearts Unplugged, which has about as an infectious riff as you could find, a song for summer and for smiling. One seriously wonders if the new Altered Images release, due next month after a 39 year hiatus, is in direct response to such polished competition as this. The vocals float over the confident guitars that sashay the song along, with one of those is it synth, is it guitar solos keeping up interest along the way.
I guess, in an act to show they no one trick posse, next track, Wound Up Tight, goes all weird on us. From within a murky soundscape of guitars and effects, distorted and disturbed, this could be Hawkwind, the 4AD years. With an abrupt end, it hasn’t actually finished until some left over interval music seeps in from the post apocalypse. My jury is out on this one, but it’s growing, even if the lyrics baffle me, yet draw me in, further: “You are just a stitch in the fabric of our time, your temperament doesn’t suit your tie.” Um, OK. Catapult then offers a return to the earlier reverb heavy dream pop template, that clang of guitar so redolent of the day. With a melody that brews insidiously, this somehow steers a fine step far away from pastiche or plagiarism, an originality of touch belying the clear inspirational sources. This is even more pronounced in the pure Morrissey/Marr of Heaven’s Touch, which has the idea and image of the sainted Steven in pigtails and pinafore, and rendered totally believable. The languid production suits the loping rhythm to an S. A belter, and along with Hearts Unplugged, worth the price of admission alone.
Special is as special does, sticking steadfastly to the template. I am overdue in citing how integral and essential is the pristine production of Graham Walsh, that Holy Fuck-er, who bathes the songs in a sympathetic wash of jangled echo. A thoughtful song, with a bit more construction evident in the build and layers, it threatens early an overkill crescendo, before stepping back for another climb up the scaffolding, and a feedback finale. An abrupt turn, then, into the sidestreet labelled analog synth and dodgy hair-dos, which has Memento catching you out in a reminisce of, maybe, seagulls coming together on the foreshore . (A Flock? O, never mind…..) Slimmer fare than thus far, it adds for variety. Luckily, Am I The Man is there to buoy up the earlier prevailing mood, the burble of the bass lines a particular joy on this cut, as Cogan soars around the instrumentation.
When Life Is Not Over has the sort of title that betrays the care given to the order of placement, an uplifting ode to surviving loss, preparing simultaneously for the end of the album, the song a cascade of wistfulness, palpable nostalgia tugging on every nerve of memory, all looking ahead as much as back. How do they do that, you wonder, and where have Tallies been? And why has this period seemed so unmined, at least until now. The second summer of (muted) shoegaze? On the basis of this, bring it on!
Listen to No Dreams Of Fayres from Tallies below.