Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 – Tangle

4 out of 5

Label: Scratch Records

Produced by: Greg Freeman, TFUL282

All of the TFUL282 elements are intact across their various albums and EPs, with consideration generally in regards to how much you prefer of one aspect of the band over another, wholly capable of anarchic skronk, or shambly pop, or something punkier or operatic, not to mention their “feller-filler” moments. As you travel earlier in their career, I think the assumption would be that they get more “indie” sounding, and I wouldn’t necessarily argue against that, but another take: they got more comfortable with their weirdness as the years passed; later discs might be less directly accessible, but they’re more consistent. Flipping the point again: the college rock years of TFUL282 – filler included – are incredibly accessible, and owing to the group’s oddball blend of sensibilities, not as heavy handed (either serious or silly) as other same-era indie all-tars. 

In other words: why didn’t tangle, the band’s second album, make them relative household names? 

Oh, right – because that name is Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, and that’s a mouthful. 

Which is perhaps where the album takes a knock, which otherwise steps through all of the above mentioned styles in its first half or so, in very compact, memorable tracks, singalong choruses and headbang-worthy riffs included. The filler – interstitial instrumentals / ambience / samples – is at its best, properly linking tracks without actually feeling like filler in the usual sense; memorable in its own right. 

But past the midpoint, a couple of tracks become aural ‘mouthfuls’ – lots of stop-starts, and some rather ungraceful (purposefully) transitions; it’s experimental, and not at all without value or interest, but it’s a tad distancing. And as though in recompense, the closing tracks are rather comparatively somber, and linear. These are amazing songs, and testament even more to the band’s skills, but also understandably confusing the idea of what kind of music TFUL were playing… which was, of course, kind of the point. 

But a point they were long in making. So: if you find “classic” Thinking Feller Matador-era albums still a bit impenetrable, make a jaunt back to right before then with Tangle – you get an absolute sense of the band’s wide range, balanced out with a large quantity of incredibly concise and catchy songs (and valuable filler!) backed up by some initial forays into more experimental territory.