There’s a whole bunch of antagonistic, willfully wanton stuff going on in A Laughing Death In Meatspace – and that’s just the title, alone. The contents of this debut album from Tropical Fuck Storm is every bit as urgent, angular, and confrontational as their inflammatory titling convention.
Lead by singer-songwriter Gareth Liddiard of the Drones, Tropical Fuck Storm is an assembly of artists that we may recognize from other Australian indie, or indie-rock outfits. Joining Liddiard from the Drones is bassist Fiona Kitschin. From Harmony and Palm Springs is guitarist Erica Dunn, and whoops – look on drums – it’s Lauren Hammel who you may recognize from her work with High Tension.
The cross-fertilization of projects has delivered a pedigree that extends the will of the Drones, but in such a way that the evolutionary tangent feels like a creature with its own set of refined abilities. Liddiard is clearly at the helm of the project, but Tropical Fuck Storm carries with it the weight of experience, and a deeper sense of the collective unconscious than anything we may have expected.
From opening track, ‘You let my tyres down’, the tone of negotiation is set. Liddiard delivers a crooning snarl, and a set of lyrics that dismantle any idea you may have had of this clearly being one thing, or another. It’s not just the accent that calls back fellow Australian Nick Cave’s vocal performance. There’s an awareness of the darkness, and a kind of sneering, self-effacing humor that drags syllables beyond their natural end.
“She’s right there on CCTV / forgetting to take her medication” is a lyric, typical of the scenes that unfold across the rest of the sequence. On the one hand there’s a dehumanizing, spiky view, and on the other there’s a soft-heart in the center. Instrumentally we flip between caustic distortions and off-kilter guitar barbs, to moments of almost heavenly beauty – like a more traditional ballad is trying to break free. Of course, it’s the chaos that almost wins, and it’s well-deserved victory.
The screwing, skewing energy of Tropical Fuck Storm is well preserved in the production of the album. The energy here is cut quick – urgency feels like the fifth member of the band. Like words that we blurt out in love or rage, this album drops pretense in favor of purity of communication. Tropical Fuck Storm learn away from the needlessly refined, and explore the more elemental aspects of emotion. Glitches appear here and there, and odd textures are preserved where other bands would fear lack of polish. The result is a rewarding clarity, and the character of each band member is portrayed with refreshing integrity.
‘The Future of History’ is a highlight of narrative songwriting, not only on this album, across most albums that have been released so far this year. The battle between a super computer and chess master Kasparov that happened in 1997 provides a world view where intelligences collide. The projection is a place where technology disrupts nature to near extinction. It’s beautiful, of course. Who doesn’t love a good wasteland?
It’s not only the exuberance of the album that elevates the lyrics. Liddiard alternates doses between uppers and downers, acid and alkaline. The balance of frustration, and the songwriter’s lack of trust for habitual thinking, makes way for freer expressions, and aspects of the human landscape that are worth preserving.
It’s true that there are antagonistic moments, where the band’s intent hurls itself with kamikaze humor into a subject, but the targets of derision are always the targets worth taking down. Hypocrisies, the preservation of demonstrably polluting traditions, and basic human greed, are the elements that are fucked with here.
Populated with caustic wit, wonderful poetry, and an intelligence that knows how to carefully control the detonation of things, Tropical Fuck Storm have produced an album of significant beauty.
HURRY – BUY – TROPICAL FUCK STORM MUSIC