Black Tambourine – Complete Recordings (Slumberland Records)

With The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart and Crystal Stilts launching Slumberland Records back into the indie-rock spotlight, the time seems right for this re-release. After all, Black Tambourine were perhaps “the” band who defined the musical aesthetic of the label’s early days – a mix of twee-pop, C-86, girl-groups, and shoegaze. The Silver Spring, MD outfit didn’t record much in their original 1989-1991 incarnation, with just twelve songs from a handful of singles and compilation appearances to their name. However, they’re still fondly remembered two decades on, which is a testament to just how strong those few songs were. The opener “For Ex-Lovers Only” is perfectly indicative of Black Tambourine’s sound – sheets of Psychocandy-esque guitar feedback, coupled with vocal sweetness from singer Pam Berry  and a punky amatuerism taken from The Pastels, Vaselines, and countless other C86-ers. Elsewhere, “Black Car” is a shoegaze ballad par excellence like Ride’s “Vapor Trail,” or even early Slowdive, a cover of Love’s “Can’t Explain” is charmingly ramshackle, and “Throw Aggi Off The Bridge” is the band’s “great indie single that never was”. Perhaps the best thing about this retrospective is that it inspired the long-dormant group to reconvene and record four new songs, which are included here. The two covers (Buddy Holly’s “Heartbeat,” and Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream”) and two originals show they can still make beautiful noise twenty years later.

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