The Green Tape

CD Cover Solarbaby
Independent Cassette

Review by Michael O'Donahue

Solarbaby feature a toybox full of pop clichés cleverly arranged to maximize their cuteness. Pop culture references, lo-fi recording techniques and Mick Ronson guitar sounds all contribute to the impression that Solarbaby have more good records in their collection than depth in their imagination.

Sometimes their cut-up, pastiche methods work ("Made of Glass") and sometimes they don't ("Outliving James Dean," "The King of Unrequited Love"). The problem isn't so much the ideas themselves as it is where they are coming from: clever wordplay works nicely if it actually says something (Elvis Costello) or if you're really good at it (Beck, Guided by Voices), but most of Solarbaby's ideas seem to come from either their aforementioned record collection or from television -- preferably pre-today television, as the many references to JFK, Nixon at the Alamo and James Dean would attest.

Sonically, the distorted and nasally singing just doesn't seem real, and sounds put-on and contrived. The same can be said for most of tape, really. From the deliberately rudimentary guitar, to the Ringo/Sloan drums, to the pop culture references- everything seems so very on-purpose and cutesy. Nothing ever seems to go anywhere or even come from anywhere else except other people's ideas.

Sometimes Solarbaby manage to pull it off, but mostly The Green Tape [ed. with a yellow cover] comes across as contrived and unnatural lo-fi fiddling.

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First published in Drop-D Magazine on April 25, 1998

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