A fellow DJ helpfully prodded me towards giving Tarnation a spin and I belatedly thank him for doing so. Tarnation is a wonderful, under-appreciated band that doesn't sound like it is from this era. I vaguely remembered this fact when I found their second release amidst the cheap stacks and swiftly took it home with me. Sometimes all it takes is a band name to gamble your money on.
Tarnation is a moody sort of band that emits a midwestern feel and a sense of loneliness. This may mostly be due to the fact that Paula Frazer's voice is strong and yet beautifully wilting. Her periodic long cries as well as her tone of a knowing storyteller gives one a mental image of a silhouetted gunslinger riding slowly towards nowhere on the edge of a hill during sunset. No I'm serious, I get that sometimes.
"An Awful Shade of Blue", while on the surface sounds like someone's rant about an interior decorating session gone wrong, actually concerns … well geez, I don't know. The lyrics seem rather vague, so you know the best thing to do is bet on a relationship song. Either way, it's an excellent opener to the record. The much more rousing number in "Your Thoughts and Mine" sounds like the credits to the end of a movie featuring the aforementioned gunslinger after he left a woman in some desolate town. It has a sorrowful trumpet as well as a reverb guitar keeping a galloping horse's pace in the near background.
The band does take a step away from the dusty west by doing a fine cover of the Nightcrawler's "Little Black Egg" from the sixties. I first heard that song off the "Nuggets" collection from Rhino records and found it charming, yet here it was getting covered by a band that must have thought the same thing. As much as I enjoy this record, the band does get a bit distracted with some desperate sounding sparse music in "Christine", which is a tune that sounds as unsettling crazy as the unfortunate psychological end of a girl and her doll. Aside from this road block to easy flow, the record in total is dreamy trip across the plains with Frazer as its haunting guide.
I'm finding that I'm easily swept up in bands that portray a western feeling, like I was with Spindrift.
Despite all the garage rock and punk that I listen to, once in awhile something different comes along and gives me a nice surprise. Tarnation may not be for everyone, but if you're up for something low key and enjoy pretty voices as well, check out this band. I noticed that Tarnation as a group is back recording with all new members around Frazer, so keep an eye out for a possible new record if you like this one as much as I did.