Review: TaxiWars – Fever

TaxiWars are a Belgian four piece led by Tom Barman, veteran of the avant garde music and film scene. Using this experimental approach, the band create a sort of chamber music blending free jazz with more rock oriented rhythms. Barman himself is undoubtedly inspired by Mark Sandman of Morphine, with the vocal delivery being almost identical, yet the caustic saxophone present throughout provides the band with a more unique identity.

With the first two tracks ‘Fever’ and ‘Soul Repair’ we see the bands more contemporary sound, using more orthodox pop structures to house their arsenal of jazz instruments and creating what would be appropriately described as chamber-pop. However, with ‘Bridges’ we see the band embracing the jazz sound more, using syncopated rhythm to create something with less novelty value than anachronistically pairing modern songwriting with antiquated instruments. In ‘Soliloque’ the band introduces electronic sounds in the strongest track of the album, standing as the only truly organic product they can offer with its original approach.

The breadth of what is seen on the album is impressive for such limited instrumentation, ‘Trash Metal Ballad’ being the most placid offering contrasting the more energetic ‘Controlled Demolition’ and the soulful ‘Honey, It’s The Blues’ in which Barman labours every word in an attempt to make the title apt. The unifying characteristic of all the songs is the constant saxophone solos which often drift into noodling territory yet seldom detract from the laid back feeling of the album, with the frenetic rhythms offering the perfect backdrop for the sometimes arhythmic saxophone to shine in an avant-garde style that Anthony Braxton would be proud of.

Ultimately the group succeed in shedding the initial impression that they are Morphine without the catchiness and infinitely more pretentious by not being afraid to experiment with more abrasive sounds, yet still retaining pop sensibilities which gives the album more replay value than your typical avant-jazz affair. Even with the seemingly nonsensical lyrics Barman still manages to sound sincere, the abstract wording simply becoming part of the challenging musical landscape the band have created and it is in this way that they have produced something far more intelligent and original than one could ever expect from a band called ‘TaxiWars’.

Max Smith

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