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Album Review: Tropical Fuck Storm - 'A Laughing Death In Meatspace'

29 May 2018 | 10:36 pm | Staff Writer

An album as awesome as this band’s name.

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Do you ever feel like you’re procrastinating, even though you’ve got nothing to do? I’ve just finished up all my uni essays, which were stressing me out to the point where I was actually grinding my teeth without realising it. Problem is, now when I’m not actively doing something, I feel like I’m just wasting my time. So that’s my explanation of why I’m reviewing 'A Laughing Death in Meatspace', an album from Tropical Fuck Storm that came out almost a month ago, and an album that very few of you have listened to yet. But you absolutely should, because as it turns out, it’s really fucking good!

For some context, I thoroughly enjoyed the last two albums from The Drones Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin’s previous band - and this new album from Tropical Fuck Storm is basically a road map of influences from those two albums. The first song, 'You Let My Tyres Down', draws from much of the PJ Harvey-esque blues-rock that’s heard on I See Seaweed', whereas 'Two Afternoons' and 'Soft Power' remind me a lot of Feelin’ Kinda Free’ and it's weird-as-shit noisy psychedelia sound. Song’s drawing more heavily from one album over the other isn’t always the case, as every track aside from those I’ve mentioned have a very solid mix of sounds from both records. But I have to talk more about songs I loved because there’s a whole bunch of those too.

Straight up, 'Soft Power' and 'Two Afternoons' are probably my two favourite songs of the year. Yep, the entirety of 2018 so far.

The drumming was probably the most underrated element of The Drones’ sound, so I’m glad that they’ve held onto that while bringing on new drummer Lauren Hammel (of Melbourne blackened hardcore act, High Tension). The drumming plays a massive part of why I like 'Two Afternoons' so much, as it really contributes to the song’s manic, angry feeling while being generally fun at the same time. The song’s instrumentals overall remind me a lot of 'Taman Shud' from The Drones’ last album. The track goes from good to great at about two and a half minutes in, when the guitar gets a great deal louder and noisier, and it pulls off the song’s climax damned well.

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'Soft Power' is absolutely fucking perfect and I’ll tell you why soon enough, but first, has anybody seen the music video? I feel like I have to mention it because it’s completely fucking insane. It’s basically a house party if there was also a bunch of aliens and drugs - always a recipe for a smashing time.

The song is led by Liddiard’s guitars that I’d almost describe as Sludge Metal, in that early-Nirvana sort of way. Adding that onto the band’s already-established sound results in a wonderful combination of sinister and noisy, like my old housemate waking me up in the early mornings by jumping on a goddamn trampoline in her fucking bedroom. On this track especially, Liddiard is doing his spasmodic, cryptic, bogan-esque ranting vocals that are one of the reasons why he’s such an interesting singer. There are lots of odd volume changes, and it goes from passionate to disengaged at a moment’s notice. All of it contributes to the track sounding incredibly sinister and brooding, like someone slowly going insane. And I can fuck with that.

'The Future of History' is another one of my favourites. The song's centred around that tom-heavy drumming that I love oh so much. It’s the kind of song I’d listen to while I’m dancing around my kitchen making dinner cause sometimes, I just want a good beat and a study rhythm. The lyrics are also really worth talking about, as well. From what I can gather, the lyrics describe a historical chess match between a Soviet chess player (because all the best chess players are Russian...?) and a chess-playing AI robot, with the lyrics framing the match in such epic terms. It's like a musical equivalent of the dude facing off against death in The Seventh Seal. And I dig the idea of the song as describing that moment as the beginning of the technological singularity; a point in which technology is first made to be smarter than actual human beings ("if silicone is prone to make your dreams come true/you could probably say the same thing about nightmares too").

There’s another lyrical topic - it’s not directional enough to call it a ‘theme’, though - that came up a little bit across the album that I love; that being these weird esoteric references to Australiana that listeners from other countries are unlikely to get. There’s nothing worse than an Australian band pretending they’re not from here to cash in on familiarity with the U.S. and U.K. markets, so it’s great that this album will occasionally drop references to Vodka Cruisers, Australian settlers deserting their posts to live in the bush, and descriptions of a kid getting shot outside Highpoint in Melbourne (which from what I’ve heard, is half-shopping centre half-Thunderdome).

All of this reminds me of reading a book Barracuda by some writer from Melbourne, and in the first couple of pages there’s this reference to a friend of the protagonist’s being from Bendigo, and it genuinely made me stop reading in surprise, Like: “Holy fucking shit, I’m from Bendigo”. For a second there, I knew exactly how people from New York or LA feel when they consume 90% of all media ever created ever.

In terms of negativity, I don’t really have much to offer.

I do hate to harp on the album’s one instrumental track because it seems like the lowest hanging fruit, and 'Shellfish Toxin' doesn’t grab me in any kind of special way. (God, that sounded weird). It takes a lot more effort to make me interested in an instrumental track, and that song doesn’t really have what it takes. I suppose if I was being generous I could say that it provides a necessary break from the sheer energy of the rest of the album. But I’m not that generous, so I’m not going to say any of that. Instead, this track just plods along and doesn’t really go anywhere. If it was cut down to the last half, with the first half’s elevator music section removed, it would probably improve a great deal.

Back into the positive realm, the album ends with the exceptional 'Rubber Bullies', a song that’s appropriately understated without being underwhelming (that sounds more like a linguistic nit-picking on my part, but shut up, this is my review). It's got so much energy to it, and while the guitar parts are pretty repetitive, that main lick is intricate enough that it’s to the song’s real benefit. The female vocals are something that I also have to mention, especially on this track and 'Soft Power', because they make some damn fine choruses coupled with Liddiard’s aggressive yelping; a great core element of the band's sound.

'A Laughing Death In Meatspace' is a really great album for Tropical Fuck Storm. While there aren't quite as many songs that grab me to the same degree as there were on The Drones’ last album, there’s also less songs that I know I’ll consistently skip. Turns out that voice in my head was wrong - I can actually love something!

1. You Let My Tyres Down

2. Antimatter Animals

3. Chameleon Paint

4. The Future Of History

5. Two Afternoons

6. A Laughing Death In Meatspace


'A Laughing Death In Meatspace' is out now.