Tropical Fuck Storm
A Laughing Death in Meatspace
Tropical Fuck Storm is a supergroup of sorts, composed of Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin from Australian legends The Drones, Erica Dunn from Harmony and Palm Springs, and Lauren Hammel from hardcore thrashers High Tension. Despite the name change, this project really kicks off from where The Drones left off with their 2016 classic Feelin’ Kinda Free, dialing down the experimentation and upping the drama.
From the opening, lurching barrage of the epic You Let My Tires Down, you can tell that this one will be a tour de force. It opens with ringing guitar menace as Liddiard intones over a steadily rising cacophony. The verses threaten to burst their seams before retreating back to a surprisingly beautiful harmonised chorus. The epic approach returns on final track and album highlight Rubber Bullies, an enthralling narrative spat out over a steady rhythmic build and underpinned by the best riff on the album. It’s a seemingly haphazard motif when in actuality it’s meticulous – this band knows what it’s doing. As with The Drones themselves, the group’s instrumental dynamic is their calling card. They are truly a wonder, spouting out demented riff-rock that threatens to collapse upon itself at any minute, yet never does. The addition of extra vocals is a welcome touch, giving these songs a richer emotional palette.
There are several other winners here. Antimatter Animals interweaves two guitar riffs in a Beefheart-esque cacophony as echoing trumpet stabs ring through, setting a truly unnerving atmosphere. Chameleon Paint ‘struts’, for want of a better word, intentionally one-legged yet restlessly fun. It’s a fun approach never tried by The Drones and it pays off here, with the sharp beat somehow meshing triumphantly against the palm muted guitar plucks and shambolic bassline.
Unfortunately the feeling of déjà vu is a bit too strong with this project. While Liddiard and co have produced a fine set of songs, they tread similar atmospheres and take less risks than on The Drones’ previous effort, Feelin’ Kinda Free. Soft Power is unimaginative, plowing the same ground as previous album track Boredom and borrowing from the template too liberally. Two Afternoons can’t get by on metallic grunge alone, and the moodpiece A Laughing Death in Meatspace falls a bit flat.
If you’ve not heard any of Liddiard’s efforts before then feel free to up this rating by a point – he is arguably the finest lyricist in Australian rock, and the group dynamic here is something that will blow your socks off. For Drones diehards though, this is a welcome but not seminal release, adding several classic songs to Liddiard’s rich oeuvre but lacking the gut-punch surprise of previous efforts.