One of the most gratifying things as a music fan is to be able to follow a band throughout their career – to witness them progress as musicians and individuals, and to hear such reflected in their songs. Some bands chalk up an impressive number of albums, their fans tirelessly discussing and debating their ranking. Others release records with gaps of three or four years, or out of the blue after a decade-long hiatus. The vast majority, however, are doomed to fade into obscurity, be it due to creative difference, lack of funding or lack of interest. One and Done aims to celebrate those bands who were only ever able to release one album, but did so with such finesse that sequels are craved whilst also, perhaps, being entirely unnecessary.
When it comes to revered albums, people are often able to recount what they felt the very first time they listened. They list the details of the ambiance, their emotions, the moment their brainwaves became synced with the audio waves. A lot of the time, music can have that sort of life-altering impact on a person. Honestly, I don’t remember my first time listening to Parades. I’m not able to recall what I’d eaten for breakfast that day, or what was going on in my life at the time that would allow their music to permeate my skull. All I can say is that Foreign Tapes must have found a nook somewhere and nestled in, because it has stayed with me for most of the time I’ve been actively seeking music.
For my money, it’s about all that you could ask for from a contemporary pop record. I suppose a lot of its charm lies in its singularity, with no predecessors to lean against or successors to compare to. That much is the big conundrum when speaking of one-and-only albums; without the muddying of a beefier discography, perhaps it’s easier to consider them as great. With that said though, what Foreign Tapes achieves without that extra podium to lift it up is proof enough, to me, of its strengths.
Triad male-female-male vocals, dense guitar effects, erratic and booming drums, mild flowery sections and moments of wall of sound elation, passages that are straight forward and passages that are forward thinking… and a guitar solo in the opening track. All of these elements are at play at one time or another, but rather than coming off as a ‘throw shit at the wall and see what sticks’ approach, it seems more in the vein of laboratory scientists hard at work engineering the new archetype for pop music. ‘Dead Nationale’ starts as a quaint meeting point of the album’s various limbs, with the light guitars wandering in as strays and brushing against the legs of the vocals. Fanciful drums drift in, meticulous without seeking too much attention and then giving way to the opening line of “Oh my god…” The track vaguely touches upon the theme of reincarnation, possibly – at least, that’s the implication when the breakneck dual guitar solo turns it inside out to close.
For a standalone release, Foreign Tapes seems painstakingly constructed, to the point where it has an air of nonchalance, like behind it is a career’s worth of foresight and trial and error.
It’s that marriage of non-intrusive norms and slightly off-kilter veering that always makes for a more engaging record, and Parades are plainly aware of that. The album’s centrepiece, ‘Loserspeak in New Tongue’, is the only track that has a music video, one which is typically frivolous as the band members get pelted with powders and paints, yet the song itself morphs and develops in ways that other singles normally do not. It boasts a slightly odd time signature, a loose structure, and vocals with the rhythm of a sing-along but with lyrics that are difficult to keep up with. On the other side of the coin sits a track like ‘Marigold’, routine with its radiance and repetition, bubbling up to a frenzied and transcendent pay-off in a way that is obvious but still fulfilling.
For a standalone release, Foreign Tapes seems painstakingly constructed, to the point where it has an air of nonchalance, like behind it is a career’s worth of foresight and trial and error. Whilst I can take solace in the fact that their drummer and one-third vocalist Jonathan Boulet enjoys a successful solo career under Modular, with two well-received releases to his name, there was still a moment of heartbreak when Parades announced their cessation. Whether or not its status as a one-off album factors into its worth, I would still consider it a benchmark of aspiring modern music.