Floral Tattoo Stuns

Floral+Tattoo+self+released+%E2%80%9CYou+Can+Never+Have+a+Long+Enough+Head+Start.%E2%80%9D+%28Courtesy+of+Facebook%29
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Floral Tattoo Stuns

Floral Tattoo self released “You Can Never Have a Long Enough Head Start.” (Courtesy of Facebook)

Floral Tattoo self released “You Can Never Have a Long Enough Head Start.” (Courtesy of Facebook)

Floral Tattoo self released “You Can Never Have a Long Enough Head Start.” (Courtesy of Facebook)

Floral Tattoo self released “You Can Never Have a Long Enough Head Start.” (Courtesy of Facebook)

Patrick Heavey, Contributing Writer

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“We are young, we are restless, we are rebels. Young gay people living our lives in radical self-love, in defiance against the people who would like to see us flung down.” This is the line at the center of the opening track to Floral Tattoo’s sophomore album, “You Can Never Have a Long Enough Head Start.” The line is delivered spoken-word, barely cutting through the drone of an organ behind it. Soon after, when the song’s vocals cut out, the organ is joined by a procession of whistles and bells.

Floral Tattoo plays with the fire of ambition so earnestly that it threatens to consume them and reduce music to pretentious parody. Instead, “You Can Never Have a Long Enough Head Start” is among the first great rock albums of the year.

Floral Tattoo is based in Seattle, Washington. Its primary songwriters are Gwen Power and band founder Alex Anderson. They self-released “You Can Never Have a Long Enough Head Start” on Bandcamp on Jan. 3, then watched it become a word-of-mouth hit. They’re best defined as shoegaze or emo, though they stretch themselves to the utmost sonic diversity allowed within that label. “You Can Never Have a Long Enough Head Start” cycles through bristling pop-punk (“The Art of Moving On”), walls of sound-inflected balladry (“Julius & Ethel”) and neo-psychedelia (“(Redding Forest Fire/Fermi)”), displaying mastery of each form, and never producing any feeling of whiplash for the listener.

In this effect, they are aided by the uniformity of their lyrics, which are consistently devoted to the mission statement of their opening track. They approach this from two angles: writing lyrics which ponder entrance into adulthood as a trans person and lyrics which spitefully admonish those “who would like to see [them] flung down.” They derive exceptional pathos from the former and exceptional catharsis from the latter, and as such their mood varies as much as their music.
Of course, it would be inaccurate to say that Floral Tattoo’s second album is a perfect outing. The band errs on their longer, slower tempo songs — especially when they are blatantly ripping off Interpol.

But if Floral Tattoo wears its influences a bit too heavily on its sleeve, and extends at times too far beyond its comfort zone, it is all made worth it by the times when it leaves its influences behind to reach new, transcendent heights. Ergo, if “Danny, Be Well,” the album’s ninth track, is slightly listless, it is redeemed by the track which follows it, “Julius & Ethel, Pt. 2,” wherein shimmering guitar is placed over Power’s lyrics of bold acceptance of trans identity. It is gorgeous.

“You Can Never Have a Long Enough Head Start” is stunning, urgent, meditative, aggressive and melodic. It is a testament to the power of ambition when coming from the youthful in the underground. In this sense, it calls back to albums like Arcade Fire’s “Funeral” and My Bloody Valentine’s “Loveless,” whose influence is written into Floral Tattoo’s DNA and albums which have been the lifeblood of indie rock for decades.

Floral Tattoo is poised with similar potential. With “You Can Never Have a Long Enough Head Start” they have become instant leading lights in the world of guitar music.