Oxford-based four piece Gunning For Tamar have made quite a name for themselves over the last year and not just locally. Forming early last year, they have already featured on XFM and BBC Introducing, produced a split EP with fellow Oxfordians Phantom Theory, won NME’s “Breakthrough track of the week” for their debut single ‘The Organs’ and have just begun a relentless tour of the country to promote their debut E.P, Deaf Cow Motel, out 30th May.
Opener, ‘German Treasure Island’, with its crashing drums and energetic heavily-distorted guitars, immediately conjures an impression of those early-mid 00’s catchy post-hardcore tracks from the likes of Thrice and Funeral For A Friend; bands which often projected heartfelt or emotional ‘emo’ lyrics which guided many bemused teenagers (myself for one) through their formative years. The contrasting time signature that unfolds at the bridge, however, is quite different to the opening riff and verse and it is most certainly the highlight of the track, with Joe Wallis singing a gorgeous melody, “your legs were painted gold and silver” while delayed, intricate guitar riffs weave between the vocals. It is quite refreshing to hear a band like Gunning For Tamar project sounds of the post-hardcore genre while proudly stamping their own math-rock style on it – bringing their music into the new decade rather than letting it perish along with the thousands of other musical genres that seem to have fallen by the wayside (bubblegum punk, anyone)?
‘Running With Scissors’ sounds slightly different with its opening off-beat snappy snare drum and stocatto guitar progressions, but the dissonant notes still nurture the darker sound that runs through ‘German Treasure Island’ and, interestingly, both songs are in the same key. Thankfully, the distortion is turned down for the verses/closing riffs, which gives the track variation and distinguishes it from the previous song since there is a danger of these tracks merging into one another.
Ben Green’s muscular basslines are finally clearly heard in ‘God Made Colours’, but this is by far the weakest track on the EP with Wallis’ vocals thinly stretching over a fairly forgettable chorus. It seems as if previously-penned lyrics have been forced to fit a chorus which is not really there, and the song becomes a frustrating listen overall.
The final, stand-out track, ‘Bonfires’ allows the drums to take a back-seat while gentle, bluesy riffs and vocals take force. The musicians really permit themselves to breathe in this song and the music nicely ripens, with root notes supporting the poetically-charged chorus as layers upon layers of octaves and alternating vocal melodies build to a beautiful crescendo which concludes the EP.
Deaf Cow Motel is a fairly solid debut EP from a band that formed barely a year ago and their energy, precise musicianship and thunderous rhythms culminate in an impression of a band that certainly have a lot of promise. Catch them on their current tour at The Jericho Tavern and The Cellar on 18th and 30th June.
Released on 30th May 2011 by Walnut Tree Records