Friday 10 February 2012

Tennis - Young & Old

Album review by KevW

This article also appears on

We all know the clich├ęs about making second albums. Rush releasing a watered-down version of the debut to wring a few extra quid out of the initial hype; radically changing your sound to avoid being stereotyped; taking too long fretting over it so that people have stopped caring by the time it sees light of day; leaving both fans and critics scratching their heads as they attempt to 'get' the new direction a la Klaxons; totally upping your game to morph from also-rans into stadium slaying behemoths like Radiohead... the list goes on. The follow-up has been the make or break point for countless bands, but what of cutesy, lo-fi indiepop duo Tennis, a band whose longevity seemed far from certain?

A few tactical moves have been made, but have been done naturally, on the band's own terms. James Barone has been added as a full time drummer to expand their core set-up to a three-piece, gone are tales of their seafaring life (which makes perfect sense as the journey chronicled on their debut took place nearly two years before that album was released), Black Key Patrick Carney was brought in to produce - again a natural choice as he's a man who understands the challenges and benefits of self-production and retaining your own sound. It's only been a year since 'Cape Dory' wowed us with its wistful, fuzzy charm, can 'Young & Old' match it?

In short: yes. In long: here are the reasons why. 'Young & Old' opens with the line "I took a train..." seemingly a conscious attempt to shake off any nautical stereotypes that may surround them. Also toned down are the twangy surf guitars; this is not another record about the sea, this is about life since that voyage. Not only does this avoid pigeonholing, it brings with it a maturity, and by that we mean a progression, rather than a serious, grown-up slant. This album has as much youthful charm and exuberance as its predecessor; it's still wide-eyed and romantic, but maybe not quite so naive, maybe a touch more knowing.

From the opening bars of 'It All Feels The Same' you realise that Tennis and Patrick Carney are on the same wavelength. This is no attempt to adopt a 'rockier' sound, the extra production is beautifully subtle, merely giving the album a dash of added power while maintaining the trebly fuzz and dusty sound that gave 'Cape Dory' such a human feel. It's Motown and lost 60s soul 45s that are the touchstones here. 'Origins', 'Travelling', 'High Road' and more are timeless, and it's remarkable that such a strong set can be created in such a short amount of time. 'My Better Self' is enough to make any classic songwriter green with envy and 'Dreaming' is a pure pop delight.

Songs flow from these guys like torrents. Part of me wants to shout at the world until they stand up, take notice and make Tennis the stars they should be. But that's not in their game plan, they have the talent to sell out and achieve mainstream success if they craved it, but they seem happy to craft songs in the way they want to; and that is exactly how things should be. Plus, knowing about something wonderful that others don't can be exciting, especially when it's as sublime as 'Young & Old'. Get this record, you'll love it, but let's keep Tennis our little secret, it's more fun that way.

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  1. Too late! Tennis named as 'One to Watch' by today's Metro newspaper.

  2. Too late? This reviews been up a fortnight and a review of their debut for over a year! The Metro is WAY behind.