SPOOLS OUT – Blank Tape Tax Revive The Spirit Of Hardcore On ‘Plastic Vapid Sexual Cool’

If you’re into the loud-quiet-loud dynamic of bands like Nirvana, Sugar and the Pixies, Plastic Vapid Sexual Cool should be right up your alley.

Released under the moniker of Blank Tape Tax, it’s essentially a vehicle for Detroit-based multi-instrumentalist and writer Ben Yost.

Strongly influenced by Yost’s struggles with mental illness – specifically Bipolar 1 – it marries intense, often provocative lyrics, with hardcore melodic punk.

Tour de force opener Hospital sets the agenda, as Yost gives full force to his pain, anger and frustration.

I’m gonna bring my gun to school/Murder the President/Make love to the Pope,” Yost yelps, venting his nihilism in a dizzying head rush of cod-offensive bile

Heady stuff indeed.

Hayley McNichol  and Ben Yost
Frenetic splenetic – Hayley McNichol and Ben Yost

Starting with an acoustic strum, it explodes into life when Yost and co-conspirator Hayley McNichol jump on their guitar pedals and the singer rips into a blood-curdling scream worthy of Frank Black.

The most fully formed of any of the 10 tracks on the album, its declamatory chorus – from which the album’s title is culled – recalls Nirvana’s ‘A Mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido‘ from Smells Like Teen Spirit.

Indeed Yost’s voice is as much of an instrument as his lead guitar and drums, switching from croaking vulnerability to anguished roar depending on the emotional needs of his songs.

There’s honesty and urgency to his poetry, which on tracks like John Brannon – an ode to the leader of US hardcore outfit Negative Approach – requires considerable verbal dexterity.

While there’s a lot of anger here, there’s an abundance of wit and positivity too.

You get a real sense that both Yost and bassist McNichol – of Bombastic Dream Pussy – are having a ball making this record.

Tracks like Let’s All Make Sure We’re All Alright and Bet show Yost has a way with a singalong chorus.

Blank Tape Tax
Plastic Vapid Sexual Cool – cover art

Meanwhile less aggressive offerings like Flowers and Michigan Beach Front Property Scam sound like The Replacements or The Lemonheads on speed.

If there’s one minor quibble it’s that this album, released on Yost’s own Kickpop label, is a little too one-paced – even if that is a hair-raising 100 miles-an-hour.

But hey, people probably said that about Bleach and look at the leap Nirvana made between that record and Nevermind.

All in all a pretty impressive effort that more than affirms the band’s mantra that ‘you can overcome adversity’.

Definitely one to watch. John Brannon would surely be proud.

  • To stream or purchase Plastic Vapid Sexual Cool visit this link
  • For more about Ben Yost and Black Tape Tax visit their FB page and Kickpop’s instagram

About the author

Full time journalist, music lover (obvs) and truly terrible guitarist. You can find Matt on twitter @matcatch

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