The unmistakable imprint of guitarist Kevin Thomson (ex-Nice Strong Arm) guides Timco through the eight songs of Friction Tape. Following Nice Strong Arm’s dissolution, the Austin native relocated from New York to San Francisco and fell in with Red House Painters and American Music Club, whose Mark Eitzel assisted with production on the recorded-live-in-a-club debut LP. Combining the racket of Nice Strong Arm with the stark, measured reserve of his new pals, Friction Tape delivers lyrically introspective songs with melancholic melodies and instrumentation that lays in wait and then explodes in passionate fury. The forlorn “July” merges meditative, aching melodies with propulsive rhythms and Thomson’s nimble, frenetic riffing. When “Bastard” or “Screw You” begin to fall into overwrought territory, Thomson saves the songs with energetic, emotional solos. Still, for all of the heart at its core, Friction Tape is hit and miss.
Gentleman Jim benefits enormously from clear studio sound; the record gets a powerful hit off Thomson’s deep, resonant voice (especially on the dreamy “447”) and draws a sharper, more exciting tension between the band’s temperamental poles (“Louisiana” and “Marquis De Speed” are especially hair-raising examples of the yin yang). The growing cohesiveness between Thomson, drummer Ethel M.D. and bassist John Wischmann leads Timco to attempt more complex maneuvers (and some simpler ones, as well), most of which they pull off with casual aplomb. (Be sure not to miss the unlisted jazz noir/car instrumental that follows “Not for Me.”) An intimate, seductive orchid that repeatedly snaps its piercing teeth shut on your finger, Gentleman Jim makes a most polite case for chaos.