Tropical Fuck Storm - Braindrops
Tropical Fuck Storm sounds a lot like their album art. Their chaotic, eccentric, and unsettling sound is a lot to take in at once, but it leaves an undeniable impression that is hard to turn away from. Just one year removed from their warmly received A Laughing Death in Meatspace, the Aussie art-punks return with their follow up LP in Braindrops. This sophomore effort does seem to function as an extension to their debut. But whereas the predecessor was a full on-onslaught of oblique and maniacal noise and art rock, Braindrops lets in some breathing room to create a brooding tension and atmosphere.
Braindrops opens with its best song, the dissonant and nightmarish “Paradise”. Guitars swirl around unhinged, creating a measured sense of utter chaos. Gareth Liddiard’s voice, ragged and strained, injects the perfect amount of paranoid energy behind these walls of screeching feedback. At the same time, however, Liddiard is also very melodic, even catchy on the chorus.
Some of the most engaging moments on this record are when they actually slow things down a touch. Guitarist Erica Dunn takes over vocal duties on the slinky “Who’s My Eugene.” With her raspy delivery, Dunn examines the abuse of Brian Wilson from the hands of the psychotherapist Eugene Landy. Through that narrative, Dunn expresses her own fears and anxiety about entering in any sort of toxic relationship. “Aspirin” is a dour slow-build anchored by a lackadaisical bass line and a bizarre plucked guitar sound. Liddiard’s coarse ramblings give good contrast to the more conventionally pleasant harmonies given by the female cast of the band.
Tropical Fuck Storm’s lyrics ride the line behind jaded political rants and zany surrealistic fiction. The dystopian “Planet of Straw Men” depicts two nations manipulating their people while fighting for control of this intergalactic world. It’s a bit on the nose, but the charming excess of the allegory makes up for it. “But all paths leads to nowhere, and it all adds up to nothing,” Liddiard states, highlighting the futility of global conflict. “The Happiest Guy Around” takes cues from Orwell, commenting on human aggressiveness by personifying animals. “And the armadillo's armoured, the eagle's on the wind/But still they don't go for vendettas, man, they take it on the chin.” The off-the-wall, absurd lyrics are made complete with the interlocking riffs and oblong polyrhythms.
The afrobeat inspired title track takes a look at gentrification and social apathy in the face of it. “The hours are way too long, but then the pay is shit. I hear he's saving all his money for a hair transplant.” Liddiard rides the fidgety instrumentals with his aloof caterwauling
Braindrops is a discernibly weird album from a band making a quick reputation in the Aussie underground rock scene. There are excellent moments to be experienced throughout, but there are also a few times when the record seems to lull a bit. The second Tropical Fuck Storm album isn’t quite as magnetic as the first one, but its altered sense of reality and screwed songcraft will still provide ample thrills.