Tilt – Been Where? Did What? – Review


Been Where? Did What? (Fat)
by Morgan Coe

I remember when I first heard Tilt‘s amazing “Weave and Unravel” on the first Fat Music For Fat People compilation, back when Fat Mike was still handing them out free before NOFX shows… Am I showing my age yet? Anyhow, they stood out as the least “Fat-sounding” band on Fat Wreck Chords: Their female singer, impassioned lyrics, wussy production, and simple-but-catchy songwriting set them apart from what turned out to be the starting lineup for California’s mid-’90s pop-punk varsity squad. While Propagandhi, Strung Out, Lagwagon, Face To Face, and NOFX were snapping towels in the boys’ locker room, Tilt’s Cinder Block was furiously filling journal after journal under the bleachers. History, of course, is written by the victors, but Tilt could’ve been a great underdog, an antidote to the smug musical dick-swinging that “SoCal punk” degenerated into…

Fast forward a decade or so. Tilt has put out three full albums, all of which have failed to fulfill their potential. Their latest CD, a collection of early demos, out-takes, and rarities, has finally put to rest the question of whether “Weave and Unravel” was a brilliant fluke (see also: The Only Ones’ “Another Girl, Another Planet”), or whether Tilt were geniuses with a very short half-life (see also: Rancid). The answer, unfortunately, is resoundingly the former. Aside from the understandably murky production, most of these songs suffer from overwrought and quavery vocals, predictable songwriting, clumsy attempts to “rock out,” and a complete inability to make the music fit with the lyrics (or vice versa). The overall effect is that Tilt sounds like they decided to write “interesting” punk rock before they learned to play properly, and this is as true of the original demos as it is of the more recent songs included at the end of the disc. And I’m not even going to start on their cover of the “Dukes of Hazzard Theme,” which is a senseless waste of microphones and reel-to-reel tape, not to mention human life.

Bottom line: If you are looking “gut level, punk anthems with passion and expressiveness” or find yourself fiending for “a dose of estrogen” (when in doubt, go straight for the press kit), you’d be better off checking out the Gits or the first Muffs record. My one consolation in this otherwise disappointing record reviewing experience is the knowledge that Tilt’s original bassist, Pete Rypins, is back in the band. The guy was in Crimpshrine, the best East Bay punk band ever, and it’s good to see him working again.
(PO Box 193690 San Francisco, CA 94119)