Cassettes on Tape Album Review: Anywhere but away

Cassettes on Tape (Photo: Lisa Johnson)
Cassettes on Tape (Photo: Lisa Johnson)

I thought I was listening to a song from the soundtrack of Sophia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette” upon first hearing “Don’t Want to Be Your Friend,” a track off Cassettes on Tape‘s newest album, Anywhere.

But the naivete Marie Antoinette displayed during her reign is the uncertain energy this fresh Chicago band wants to give its listeners. Cassettes on Tape has been compared to The Cure and The Smiths since its 2011 inception, both of whom are known to have rocked 70s through 90s youth. Regardless of the age or maturity of the band’s listeners, this sound is one that can take the modern day professional out of work, and into a more selfish and thoughtful place on the lunch break.

Chicago is a city that boasts two personalities – a joyful yet muggy side, and a gloomy and grey one. Thousands of people ride the Metra and CTA every day to make a living, and it becomes easy to ignore the beauty this major city holds in the summer, living through such repetition. Cassettes on Tape brings us back to a pensive time with fuzzy tones that reminisce wintry roads, meanwhile celebrating a blue sky.

Anywhere keeps Cassettes on Tape true to its original sound, which combines Shyam Telikicherla’s shoegaze guitar riffs, with Chris Jepson’s percussion patterns and Greg Kozak’s bass motifs of the 80s. However, Vocalist Joe Kozak plays the protagonist role in each of these songs, and exhibits acceptance in the title track of Anywhere, with such lyrics as “I’ve never been to Boston/I’ve never been anywhere/and I’m alright with that.” Kozak wants to readapt to his Chicago life instead of running away from heartache.

This theme seems fitting for someone who feels stuck in the 9 to 5 cubicle cycle, imagining oneself in the music video. But those lyrics juxtapose the order of titles on the Anywhere EP. This album speaks to loneliness and the effort to perhaps keep oneself away from a loved one with titles like “Anywhere,” which then transitions to “Ocean,” capturing an excitement for the next chapters as an independent.

The sprinkling of titles like “Don’t Want to Be Your Friend,” “Please Please Let Me Go” and “Shattered” tell a listener – before listening – that the protagonist is going through the initial indecision that follows a break-up or even a disagreement with a family member.

Glass that’s literally been scattered across the floor is what the guitar riffs preluding “Shattered” sound like, all pieces reflecting separate colors of the rainbow. Kozak sings, “Feels like we have grown so very far apart/we’ve always known,” telling listeners that the protagonist and his counterpart forced together something that was too good to be true, and eventually the pieces rejected one another.

Catch Cassettes on Tape live Friday at the Bottom Lounge, along with Soft Speaker, 8-bit crEEps and Blind Moon.

Elif Geris
Elif Geris
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