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Grand designs

Taxpayer do some sound planning
By MATT PARISH  |  March 12, 2009

ME, ME, ME: "I wanted to back up a bit," says Jared Marsh. "Because how much can you hear about one person's experiences and still give a shit?"

Taxpayer, "We Have Arrived" (mp3)
Last year at this time, Taxpayer were up in New Hampshire in a backwoods cabin they'd locked themselves in for a long weekend, tired of scraping by on three-hour rehearsals here and there whenever the members' schedules matched up. They'd reached the end of the lifespan of their material — a smattering of singles and their Lunch Records debut, Bones and Lungs — and had decided it was time to go get lost again.

"I think it was on Route 16 somewhere," says singer Jared Marsh. "On the left. The details are hazy — I'm just the dumb blond of the group." After three nights and four days straight, they walked out with a pile of demos from 16-track tape. "That whole weekend really nailed down the mood for the entire album."

It sounds like a militia retreat, and I'm not sure the sentiments behind it were all that different. The finished product, Don't Steal My Night Vision (Lunch), which the band are celebrating at their Paradise CD-release party this Friday, finds them rearmed with a convoy of moody pop rock full of sloganeering, lock-step hi-hat and snare, and tracer-fire guitars. This isn't the Taxpayer you're used to. (Marsh: "I'd be disappointed if anyone said this sounded the same as our last album.") It's tighter, more mechanized. The songs still plumb the depths of emotional wreckage and despair, but this time it all seems plotted from a distance, on maps and dusty graph paper.

The music they came home with triumphs with a mixture of all sorts of unlikely accomplices. Austere Britpop, Strokes gruff, and stoic Interpol posturing all figure in, but there are also artifacts from modern-rock radio's recent past. Think about Fastball and the Verve Pipe. "Night Vision" sounds almost like post-haircut Soundgarden, and I'd be holding back if I didn't note the similarity between the twangy outro in the leadoff single, "We Have Arrived," and a lost Hootie guitar solo. They've thrown these relics hard at a wall and scraped off the salvageable parts with an economical blade. I know — I wasn't aware there were salvageable parts either. Taxpayer grab the debris and make it mean something in a calm, calculating way.

Marsh himself is a real-life Back Bay financial adviser who has the general's task of doling out the lyrics. "I had the luxury of spending 12 or 14 months with this stuff to write. That's a total departure from last time. When we recorded what ended up being the big single on the last record ["When They Were Young"], I only had about three hours to write the words."

The four years since that album have brought many changes to the band, not the least of which is an analytical voice in new fifth member and former Bang Camaro ax Maclaine Diemer. "It's like when your parents invite company over and start acting on their best, rational behavior again," Marsh says. With a few mortgages, engagements, and a bit of fatherhood thrown in, the days of old high-school friends amped up against the world are starting to fade. "When we did the last album, we were just another band struggling to get booked on Tuesday nights, you know? Everything came from an intensely personal place. This time, I wanted to back up a bit. Because how much can you hear about one person's experiences and still give a shit?"

Marsh responded to the cozy time frame with a disciplined, formalist approach, picking narratives out of the pop culture æther instead of a journal. The album kicks off with "Arrived," a sort of impossibly uplifting anthem whose plot he took from reality TV. "I knew from the cadence that it would have to be a narrative. And I knew where the consonants and vowels would have to line up and where the uplifting line needed to be. I eventually came across my content while watching this drug-addict episode of Intervention." "Would you believe he's up to week three and now he's just skin and bones?", Marsh asks in the song, gesturing to the struggling addict like a well-mannered Rod Serling who wants things to go right.

Don't Steal My Night Vision takes us through many gnarly tales of bottomed-out lives and relationships. In "Darwin's Club," belief in God is fought over as if it were an inherited gene. In "Settle Down Ghost," Marsh cheers on his depressed listeners: "Don't listen to the haunted ones/They're wrong, they're dead and wrong."

"We were kind of late bloomers," he concludes. "Most of the bands we were friends with four years ago have broken up and left, so we sometimes feel like the last band standing. I think it's helped us to start living in the moment instead of being afraid of it."

TAXPAYER + BON SAVANTS + AGE RINGS | Paradise Rock Club, 967 Comm Ave, Boston | March 13 at 8 pm | 18+ | $12 | 617.562.8800

Related: Lift and drag, Slideshow: Airborne Toxic Event, Live free or die!, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Bang Camaro, Interpol, Lunch,  More more >
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