Music Reviews
A Laughing Death in Meatspace

Tropical Fuck Storm A Laughing Death in Meatspace

(Joyful Noise Recordings) Rating - 9/10

As the stinging fragments from a six-string inject a corrosive agent into the song Chameleon Paint, vocalist/guitarist Gareth Liddiard sings, “Who’s screwing who, what, where, when, how, (wow!) … power gets let off every time.” His words are clever and acidic, expressed with an air of intellectual exhaustion that doesn’t let up. It’s appropriate that the post-truth hellscape is addressed by a band called Tropical Fuck Storm, A Laughing Death in Meatspace the band’s first LP. While no less packed with comment than Lilliard had been fronting the Australian noise punk of The Drones, Tropical Fuck Storm (also driven by ex-Drones bassist Fiona Kitschin, drummer Lauren Hammel and guitarist/keyboardist Erica Dunn) is less Gang Of Four than they are The Pop Group, a similar level of poetic critique and takedowns packaged and delivered with unsettling and risky discord, a veritable junkyard sculpture thoughtfully constructed from punk scraps, crusty psychedelia and a rhythmic articulation of ideas bred from the spoken word.

Opening with the cleanest thematic riff on the LP, the accessible but engaging You Let My Tyres Down has a turbulent second half and a strong hook. It’s somewhat of an outlier, introducing a record that becomes increasingly frustrated and louder the deeper it gets. The disjointed loop of Antimatter Animals follows, as synthesized splats and bleeps add a machined feel to its already robotic stride and droning low end. “If you wanna be remembered,” Liddiard and Kitschin sing, “you’re only making everything much worse.” From there the aforementioned Chameleon Paint comes in followed by the fuzz-laden rhumba of The Future of History, guitar strings bent to a choke as the track swings, a multi-syllabic hook melodically rapped over a warped and blocky kick drum.

Soft Power enforces the importance of Kitschin. As the quartet’s arrangement seems to collapse into a workable boom-bap, Liddiard spills his verses (“Yeah, hold your fire, man, don’t shoot! Here comes the Oompa Loompas with the nukes!”), observations and fantasies dystopic as Kitschin’s vocal captures the track’s anxiety, her simple repetition of phrases effective against the noisy collection of sounds behind her. Inasmuch as Liddiard’s perspective and lyrical candor give Tropical Fuck Storm its depth, consider Kitschin a means to magnify impact, her melodies in You Let My Tyres Down, Antimatter Animal, and Two Afternoons - where sections of relative quiet leave enough of a pause to allow her to stand out - completely necessary.

There’s discordant grace that introduces the instrumental Shellfish Toxin as seagulls laugh and the rapid-fire of sci-fi weapons blast in the distance, incidental sounds eventually fading out as some guitar notes are plucked and synthesized tones waver. A slow drum arrangement enters, with a breathy vocal introduced as accompaniment. It’s one of the album’s pretty moments and it offers a decent set-up for the title track, mostly subdued and slow, though balanced by moments of intensity.

“This supermarket aircon’s freezing, man. I'm feeling like I’m dying…”

With the conversational pace of a man telling a story, Liddiard spends the entirety of Rubber Bullies in exposition. Anchored by Kistchin and Hammel, their rhythm section reserved and patient for most of the track’s runtime, Bullies is written as a stream of consciousness, tangled up in the narrator’s impressions of his surroundings and the futility of the experiences he details. It makes for a captivating 6-minutes, ending the album with its most poeticized expression and an air of pensiveness, the last words being, “Oh. How? Why? Where we goin’ now?”

Perhaps now bunking with the notably message-oriented Algiers and Sleaford Mods, Tropical Fuck Storm is a topical band, pushing comment through its own lexicon and running lyrics up against a fully dismantled and hybridized musical form. In Chameleon Paint, Liddiard’s first words are, “These are only my impressions, all of which are false.” Taken as indictment or admission, it's a juxtaposition making a claim that's as convincing as the music that drives it.