Published Aug 20, 2019If you have ever been exposed to a well-crafted work of science fiction, you're familiar with the unsettling feeling that comes with being presented a strange and frightening new world, then slowly realizing how closely tied the main character's reality is to your own on Earth. Convert that feeling to MP3 format, throw in some effects pedals and you have Braindrops, the sophomore LP from Australian band Tropical Fuck Storm.
After establishing a characteristic manipulation and distortion of genres in their debut, A Laughing Death in Meatspace, Tropical Fuck Storm up the ante on Braindrops, which feels like a psychedelic rock opera occasionally dipping its toes in the stream of electro-punk. The result is equal parts harrowing and electrifying, surreal and far too familiar. Moments like the slow descent into chaos at the end of the opening track "Paradise," as well as the tremolo-heavy, distorted guitar riff accompanied by robotic '80s sci-fi noises in the instrumental "Desert Sands of Venus" are what set the ominous and intensely uncertain tone that permeates Braindrops.
This atmosphere is present both compositionally and lyrically: Tropical Fuck Storm hit a sweet spot in their ambiguity, with bizarre, imaginative lyrics that are vague enough to be open to interpretation, but specific enough to maintain relevance in the modern-day world of rampant environmental decline and social decay.
Lyrics from "The Planet of Straw Men," for example, a song that might be about strange people from a distant galaxy, or could just as easily be an exploration of the impact of social media on the human psyche. You decide.
Within the dystopian madness of Braindrops, Tropical Fuck Storm still leave room for more intimate and retrospective sounds, and some of the most memorable songs on the record offer a brief moment of clarity. When vocalists Gareth Liddiard, Fiona Kitschin and Erica Dunn harmonize on "Aspirin," or repeatedly chant the words "You won't remember me" on the track "Maria 62," the feeling they evoke is one of both awe and distress.
Braindrops is a tumultuous and compelling listen. Tropical Fuck Storm bring a level of spectacle and nuance that is reminiscent of fellow psych-rockers Pink Floyd, but being poised in the Trump era allows them to explore the Orwellian current-day concerns of a spiralling, pre-apocalyptic world. (Joyful Noise)