Tactics

The Sound of the Sound, Vol. 2 - 1984-1988: Albums, Singles, Live Tracks

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Tactics stood out from the pack of Australian post-punk bands in the 1980s; not brightly poppy, gloomy for its own sake, or obsessed with the Detroit/Ann Arbor axis, group leader Dave Studdert took an arty approach to his music that was ambitious, eclectic, and clearly intelligent. When the first version of Tactics splintered in 1984, Studdert rebuilt the band from scratch, and the second act of the band's history is documented on The Sound of the Sound, Vol. 2: 1984-1988, a follow-up to the similarly titled collection focusing on the group's first era. This collection includes the material from the 1986 album, The Blue and White Future Whale, demos for their final effort The Great Gusto (Studdert disavows the finished product in the liner notes), and a handful of single sides, live tracks, and other rare items. While this period is generally regarded as the band's most commercial work, this sure doesn't sound like a band reaching for a hit -- most of this music is understated and purposefully obscure in its intentions, and the while the interplay between the musicians is impressive, most of this music is more about atmosphere than melody. If you're not a devoted fan, this collection gets just a bit tiresome by the end of disc two, especially given the pretentious tone and wobbly delivery of Studdert's lyrics and vocals, which suggest David Byrne stripped of his faux-populist charm (which is fitting, as the music sometimes resembles a colder and less energetic variation on the Talking Heads). And while the remastering of most of the material is good, some tracks were clearly rescued from vinyl discs that have seen better days. The Sound of the Sound, Vol. 2 does an excellent job of documenting these years in the life of Tactics, but ultimately, this music suggests the ideas were more compelling than the results (and the live recordings lend credence to the notion that Tactics were more successful in front of an audience than in the studio).

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