In sociology there is an ancient debate that continues to rage today: are our instincts influenced by nature or nurture? On one side, nature argues that it is our inherent instinct that rules—that which is passed on from generation to generation. The nurture argument, on the other hand, would argue that we are a product of our environment. Much like the determinism versus free will argument in philosophy, when posed the question, many would say there are elements of both that make up our personalities and explain why we do the things we do.
Transitioning the nature versus nurture argument to a discussion on Every Scene Needs A Center by Tullycraft could be an argument on the album’s title, which would be worthy of an essay in itself. It could also refer to the experience of growing up and how nurture, or our every-day experiences and environments, appears to have transitioned the band from its raw twee-punk early days to their current smoother and more produced sound. But this is not necessarily the case either. Instead… I have no clue where the fuck I was going with this. One moment it appears that the group may have matured a bit from their wild and crazy early days. But who am I kidding? These are songs about punks writing love songs (“The Punks Are Writing Love Songs”) and vampires (“Dracula Screams Of Tiger Style” and “If You Take Away The Makeup (Then The Vampires Will Die)”) and the extraterrestrial (“The Lonely Life Of A UFO Researcher”).
Every Scene Needs A Center is indeed a diversion from Tullycraft’s early work, but not so much that the elements which made fans fall in love with their prior albums have disappeared—they have not, as Every Scene Needs A Center is riddled with similar songwriting styles. Simply put, the primary change is found in the production value; this album was recorded entirely on analog tape. Other than that, Tullycraft are their same ol’ selves. Still, the production elements are surprising and spark wonder in how their live performance sounds. Sean Tollefson’s vocals on the album are soft compared to the loud ruckus I was witness to at this year’s SXSW. And the best part is: either way, Tullycraft is brilliant!
In “The Punks Are Writing Love Songs”, the band recites the title as lyrics over and over in the chorus, making a catchy and memorable hook (a common theme to their songs). The guitars are still loud and the drums are still loud and everything is extremely loud but the vocals, which are soft but just mixed up to be very loud too.
A common feature throughout the album is the use of backup vocals—in fact, a common feature is the use of fellow Northwest pop artists! “Dracula Screams Of Tiger Style”, a song that begins slightly slower that the punk-twee filling the rest of the album before returning to quick punk hooks we’re used to from Tullycraft, includes members of Math And Physics Club [Saundrah Humphrey on violin], BOAT [Dave Crane and Mark McKenzie on backup vocals], and Patience Please [Keenan Dowers and Ray Proudfoot on backup vocals]. There are others, but the names escape me.
One major surprise is “The Lonely Live Of The UFO Researcher” which, like “Dracula Screams Of Tiger Style” begins slower than the typical Tullycraft tune. The instrumentation here is much lighter, including a warble-y guitar. In fact, it’s one of this writer’s favorite tunes off the album. Later is a crowd sing-along; you can almost visualize Tollefson asking the crowd to sing the title of the track at select moments during the song: If you take away the makeup / Then the vampires they will die. The same backup vocalists found on “Dracula Screams Of Tiger Style” can be found on “If You Take Away The Makeup (Then The Vampires They Will Die)”. Another favorite is, of course, “One Essex Girl”.
No matter in what incarnation—matured or no—Every Scene Needs A Center is simply wonderful. I’ll always love “Twee As Fuck” and “The Last Song”, but Every Scene Needs A Center, as a whole, is Tullycraft’s best work. The general positive descriptive phrases apply: fun as all hell, hook-y and catchy and filled with joy, a party for you ears. A party for your ears. I like that. Every Scene Needs A Center is, above all else, a party for your ears.
This review was originally published November 9, 2007 on the old version of FensePost.
Magic Marker Records [CD, 2007]
01. The Punks Are Writing Love Songs
02. Fangs On Bats
03. Georgette Plays A Goth
04. Bored To Hear Your Heart Still Breaks
05. Clique At Night Vandals
06. Dracula Screams Of Tiger Style (Parts One And Two)
07. The Lonely Life Of The UFO Researcher
08. A Cursed Miss Maybellene
09. If You Take Away The Makeup (Then The Vampires They Will Die)
11. The Neutron
12. One Essex Girl
13. The Secret History Of Devil’s Paw
14. We Know You’re Cute, You Told Us