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Friday, September 4

Live Album Review - TAUK - HEADROOM - September 4th, 2015


TAUK, the instrumental rock quartet from Oyster Bay, New York, has undeniably been the most exciting band on the scene over the past couple of years. After releasing their third studio album just over a year ago, we are finally getting a live release to showcase the wondrous emotional ride that is a TAUK concert. These 16 live tracks were handpicked by the band from multiple dates and venues, including The NorVa (Norfolk, VA), Iron Works (Birmingham, AL), AURA Music Festival (Live Oak, FL), The National (Richmond, VA), Terminal West (Atlanta, GA) and more. Considering the fact that they have pretty much been on tour non-stop for the past few years, it is fitting that HEADROOM draws its tracklist from multiple shows.

From start to finish, not a single note HEADROOM should be missed. “Mokuba” kicks us right into the band’s signature deceptive lull, making us feel comfortable in the groove before blasting our heads open. I can almost see bassist Charles Dolan sitting back in his nonchalant stance, as his deep, dark bass rips holes in the space time continuum. Keyboardist Alric “AC” Carter and guitarist Matt Jalbert share in a duet for the intricate lead melody, completely locked into each other, and drummer Isaac Teel totally commands and controls the groove. “Afro-Tonic” features jazzy, interlocking melodies from Carter and Jalbert and an ecstatic, progressive build leaving nothing but joy in our heads. Jalbert takes an exceptional leap for a wailing solo, followed by a quick word in edgewise from Teel, to finish this one off. “Sweet Revenge” brings us back into that deceptive lull, until Carter launches us into space with psychedelic synth waves… and then it’s time to rock! “In The Basement of the Alamo” starts off deep, dark and edgy, as if you were trying to disarm a bomb that you knew would explode at any second. And sure enough, it does! Teel kicks the band into an all-out rock & roll session. “On Guard” is a mind-bending, face-melting psychedelic thrill ride, with moments light peering through the overall dark feel. I hear that thumping bass in my sleep after TAUK shows. “Rainwalk” has a bit of an Afro-beat feel to the opening drums, but the song as a whole can best be described as edgy jazz fusion, aside from some gut-wrenching synth work from Carter in the bridge. “Districts” provides a relatively mellow surf along the waves of sound leading up to one of the band’s signature covers: “In Bloom” by Nirvana. Finally, “Collateral” closes out Disc 1 (yes, just Disc 1) with a heavy hitter, running all over the spectrum and building to a spectacular peak.

Disc 2 comes in strong with the pristine “Dirty Mouth,” before putting the pedal to the metal again on “The Chemist.” One TAUK’s greatest attributes is their formula. The band has a unique way of showcasing each of their individual talents, while at the same time giving each other enough space to keep the group dynamic intact. I see that especially in this version of “The Chemist.” Moving on into “The Spot,” the band begins to spread out a bit. This one has a slower tempo, though no less groovy, allowing for a minimalistic approach that blasts us into oblivion. Teel on the drums seems to be the only one outside of the less-is-more approach on this tune, as he wails on the drums like a beast, all the while never missing a single beat. Another deceptive lull as the intro to “Friction” puts us back into that comfortable groove… until… BLAST OFF! “Carpentino’s Rebirth” helped rev the engines back up in the intro, giving way to a light but fast-paced groove, featuring ecstatic chord work from Carter and frothy lead melodies from Jalbert. And then came the epic saga that is “Tumbler.” The bass is so deep it’s otherworldly, and Jalbert’s angelic lead compliments beautifully. Carter branches out for a solo early on, and the whole group takes the jam out into the ether throughout the middle section. After a long build led by the driving force of Teel on drums and an incredible solo from Jalbert on guitar, Carter takes another venture out into the lead, and the tune fades out. Finally, “Battle Without Honor Or Humanity” blasts the album to a close, featuring a guest horn section to add a bit of extra versatility to this awesome collection of live tunes.
If you have not had the chance to catch TAUK live yet, just crank up the volume to 11 and play this album, and you will have a pretty good idea of what it’s like. Aside from the irreplaceable interaction of adoring fans surrounding you, all dancing their asses off, this album provides an excellent overview of the live TAUK experience. It has a little bit of everything that makes them such an exciting band to follow, and I honestly cannot say that I’ve seen or heard any better performances of any of these songs than the ones they have chosen for HEADROOM. Bravo TAUK… bravo!
Review: Randy Harris
4 outta 5 glowsticks