In the early '80s, there were outposts all around the globe of musical outsiders applying punk’s D.I.Y. lessons and post-punk’s experimentation. One such area was a small suburb of Brisbane, Australia, where a group of teenagers banded together to make some the era’s best, most interesting, and exciting music.Tangled Shoelaceswere three siblings and a school chum who hit a sweet spot betweenTelevision Personalities' bedroom psychedelia andthe Swell Maps' sonic adventurism, adding plenty of innocent charm to the mix. Their scant recordings and unreleased tracks are gathered with loving care by Chapter Music on the long overdue collection把表盘:M Squared Recordings & More, 1981-1984. The group's chief songwriter and guitarist Stephen was also the oldest of the Mackerras clan; he and his sister Lucy shared most of the vocals. Brother Ben played bass and Leigh Nelson handled the drumming, except when he couldn't make the recording sessions in Sydney and the group used a drum machine. Together, they were fearless and able to turn their nascent musical skills into something truly special as they grew and tried out styles, moods, and genres to see what worked. Their most conventional songs sound like radio pop built out of baling wire and cardboard, yet they're still achingly pretty and emotionally powerful. "The Biggest Movie Ever Made" is a lovely pop song featuring fairground organ, honking sax, and Stephen's yearning vocals, and takes off for the heavens in the verses when Lucy and a sweeping synth come in. "World" comes across like a majestic回声与布尼曼track jammed into a snow globe, "Rejection" sounds like the mopiestB-52s' track ever, and "S.E.P." is menacing dance-punk-funk built around samples and Ben's thudding bass. A tweak here and there in the production and any of these tracks could have made it to a Rhino comp down the line. As great as these songs are, when the band take a leap into less well-charted territory they come up with some very interesting results. "Turn My Dial" is a fascinating lo-fi romp with a sugary chorus, an amazing Baroque synth solo, and enough cheeky exuberance to power a small town for a week. It's hard to think of anything else in the early '80s that sounds like this; it would have been more at home on K Records in the early '90s. "I Need a Stamp'' is a truly odd song that strays far from any existing pop music templates, the lengthy "Beware of Fallen Objects" is marvelously gloomy and understated post-punk balladry, and "Bordumb" has exactly the right kind of ramshackle brilliance that would have sounded perfect on Flying Nun records, and everything else they did has something weird or wonderful in either the music or lyrics to recommend it. It's rare that lost recordings live up to their legend, but these do. Or that a band as obscure asTangled Shoelacesactually prove even better than advertised.
AllMusic Review byTim Sendra