Friday 10 September 2021

Tangled Shoelaces

What a brilliant band name!

Tangled Shoelaces, from Brisbane in Australia, were aged 10-14, centred around siblings Stephen, Lucy and Martin Mackerras, with their friend and neighbour Leigh Nelson on drums.

Forming in 1980, they released one 7-inch single before breaking up in 1984, when the oldest members were still only 18. However, they recorded much more and the label Chapter Music has collected 22 songs labelled as some of the smartest, catchiest, most eccentric teenage pop you'll ever hear, releasing it as Turn My Dial - M Squared Recordings and more, 1981-84.

I was alerted to this release by the good people at Monorail in Glasgow who are extremely friendly and beautifully knowledgeable and passionate about music. Their e-newslettter about this release just leapt out of my screen at me, causing excitement in the good old fashioned way when I would read reviews in the NME and Melody Maker.

The newsletter worked! I missed out on the first pressing, but I've just ordered a second pressing and look forward to receiving it as I've been streaming the album regularly.

So what about the album?

Well, there are some exceptional standouts and, as you might expect for a band so young, some scratchy ideas and demos. There are loads of melodies and playful guitar licks, someone sounding like they figured out how to change the tempo of their drum machine mid-song (Political Jokes), innocent sounding vocals and young voices gelling to create something incredibly compelling. 

Stick with some of the songs that are rougher round the edges, like the title track Turn My Dial and you're rewarded. The first verse is incredibly childlike in melody, voice and instrumentation and then the band just hit the chorus and it's just joyous. 

Baby turn my dial

With your beautiful smile

The Biggest Movie Ever Made is a stunning duet; the band sound like they stumble across a guitar riff and then it sounds like other instruments are playing an entirely different song - but it somehow works!

The break to the chorus is spine tingling, it sounds like they hit a bum synth note or 2 before the synth sound flows in waves as Lucy sings and life is like a movie ...

Stephen's second verse seems to predict social media and people embarrassing themselves on camera. The extended instrumental to close after the second chorus is just sublime, a band in full flight for 1 minute 40 seconds.

My own personal highlight is the single Oceans Away, which sounds absolutely timeless. This should have been a hit single! Indie guitar pop perfection, at times coming on like a younger Australian cousin to New Order with the way the guitar, synths and bass mix.

For an even stronger New Order reference check World, the drum machine, bass riff and melodica sound like Tangled Laces had been listening to Power, Corruption & Lies at a very young age. The way Stephen and Lucy's voices gel is sublime. Glorious!

I need to ask a question

Won't someone give me an answer please

Why oh why was I born at all

You're so big and me so small

Sleeping is pure punk pop brilliance, like Television Personalities, there is a beautiful rawness to the guitars, the backing vocals are delightfully off key, the lyrics sound psychedelic but they are just childish jibberish, I love when Stephen (I think) shouts make believe racing cars. 1 minute and 7 seconds of joy.

There is a fantastic sense of innocence and indeed experimentation across the recordings - no surprise given their age! On songs like Rain Clouds it sounds almost improvised on the spot with whatever instruments they could get their hands on.

Some are 4-track recordings, a few are studio and some were even recorded on to cassette. There is a beautiful sense of freedom, learning, experimentation and fun.

I'm delighted to say that Stephen from the band has agreed to an interview, so look out for that in due course.

For now, check out the beautiful raw, playful, innocent guitar pop of Tangled Shoelaces by streaming / downloading or checking if Monorail (or your fave independent record store near you) have a copy of the vinyl.

Tangled Shoelaces Bandcamp 

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