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  Tammany Hall Machine  
  Tammany Hall Machine  
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Tammany Hall Machine are yet another one of the Austin, Texas, bands that seem to have crawled out of the woodwork recently. Like their ostensible compatriots Dynah and What Made Milwaukee Famous, Tammany Hall Machine have created a professional sounding solid Indie Rock album, which is perhaps stunning as the CD is both self-produced and self-released.

Avoiding the many pitfalls of self-recorded album, Tammany Hall Machine begins with a mellow, mostly instrumental song aptly called Intro. Featuring a lap steel guitar playing against a dreamy-sounding organ, this tune starts the album off in a certain pseudo-country way. However, the band moves in a different direction with the next song, Apple Moon. Alternating electric guitar with a tinny, raucous piano, Apple Moon sounds very late 60s/early 70s to me. By this I mean that there is a hint of psychedelia mixing with garage rock. However, I suspect that other, more modern ears might hear a slight resemblance to Ben Folds Five, or one of those types of bands.

Other songs move back and forth between these two poles, if you will. For instance, Factory Light has the mellow elements of the first song mixed in with some lush sounding harmonies and counter vocals. Similarly, Animal emphasizes the psychedelic aspect of Tammany Hall Machine's music with a dominant piano and occasional vocal effects. In fact, it was this song in particular that led me to think that I'd like to hear the band cover Itchycoo Park, for instance.

As the album reaches its later tracks, it seems like the almost honky-tonk aspects of Tammany Hall Machine's music come to the forefront. Bra Strap begins with the deliberate sounds of a resonator (I think) picking out a traditional-style melody which recalls The Pogues' version of Dirty Old Town. Likewise, High Lonesome has a similar singer-songwriter, semi-country feel. And then SL & SC moves back to a more piano-driven song that definitely makes my earlier Ben Folds Five comparison more apt.

Still, at the very end of the album, on the next to last song, Tammany Hall Machine turns more definitively towards a 60s garage psychedelic sound with Happy Birthday LSD (maybe the title gives it away, huh?). More importantly, the structure of this song is a little different that their previous material. The ostensible lyrical portion of the song ends maybe a third of the way and then the bands builds to a loudly distorted freak-out. However, just when you think the song is over, a slow, still distorted instrumental line comes in and plays out until the end. In some ways, Happy Birthday LSD is the opposite of the Velvet Underground's Heroin where, instead of starting slowly and then building to a climax, the song instead begins loud, becomes louder, and then gradually slows until the end.

Despite all this, the two best songs on Tammany Hall Machine are the songs in which the band breaks expectation. On the first, called In a Blonde Wig, the opening melody has a simple, almost child-like feel. As the song continues and grows, it becomes more sing-song and playful, both in its music and its lyrics. In a Blonde Wig is, quite frankly, a lot of fun and seems effortlessly constructed, which perhaps enhances its appeal. In contrast, Pretend is a very minimalist and rather long song consisting of piano and harmonized vocals. On this one, singer Joel Mullins' voice blends rather nicely with the piano and shows off an impressive upper register. Then, at one point, multiple vocal lines all harmonize together and create various alternating melodies that still manage to blend well. It's very pretty and the minimalism works, mainly because I think increased instrumentation would diminish Pretend's almost delicate structure.

In the end, after several months worth of listening, I've realized that Tammany Hall Machine have a definite sound, although each individual song on the record manages to sound different from the others. That's an impressive feat, because normally at least one song on an album sounds remarkably similar to another one. As an album, Tammany Hall Machine would seem to offer something to people with a variety of different tastes, where you like semi-country, or garage rock, or psychedelia, or just plain good music.

Related Links:

This album is available on the Tammany Hall Machine website.


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