Tropical Fuck Storm
Braindrops


4.5
superb

Review

by owl beanie STAFF
August 26th, 2019 | 36 replies


Release Date: 08/23/2019 | Tracklist

Review Summary: The house that we tore down is now a vacant block of land

Gareth Liddiard’s protagonists have wrestled with the same problems for years – the vacuum-sealed loneliness that is borne out of their geography, their mistakes; the gloomy corners of their past following them around like a dog with its tail between its legs. What has changed, however, is the way he paints them now, and the amount of sympathy he affords them in between outbursts of belligerent noise. In 2010, The Drones’ principal songwriter released Strange Tourist, a collection of stripped-back, meandering acoustic songs a la post-Red House Painters Mark Kozelek (though decidedly more abrasive and more dogmatic). In it, he presented himself as a thoughtful, meditative minstrel – offering his subjects the space they needed to go about their rituals unencumbered by a scorning, the space to make their mistakes freely (“I swear I did not know, you lay with dogs, you catch their fleas”). And on the off chance he did inject himself into the narrative, he was just as flawed as the flaw itself, just as complicit in pushing the cart past the point of no return.

He’s since replaced the considerate (well, *more* considerate) lens with, well, this. Tropical Fuck Storm is a vessel for indiscriminate vitriol and judgement. It’s a songwriter returning to square one, trading maturity for candour and sanding down the edges of his well-established style until its this gnarled, confronting thing – freed from the boundaries imposed by a need to be polite.

(A caveat: The Drones were never polite, per se, but there was always a sense of order there, and the songs were more refined. Here, that order is noticeably and purposefully absent.)

Braindrops is somehow both more personal and more detached than Liddiard has ever been. It’s personal in that there’s moments of unmitigated passion, manifesting as anger, vulnerability, and virulent snark; the shrapnel from broken relationships and haywire politics ricochets off the band, just because of how close they position themselves to the centre of the breakdown. But it’s detached in that Liddiard and co. – both here and on A Laughing Death In Meatspace – are almost omniscient. The righteous judgement on Braindrops is indiscriminate, the type that can only arise once you’ve accepted your ugly parts are just as much a part of you as all the rest. The chorus of The Happiest Guy Around sees Erica Dunn and Fiona Kitschin repeatedly yelping: ”Are ya ever ever gonna get over it? Are ya ever gonna learn to let things go?”. Like, humanity is fucked, and there’s a level of futility in clinging onto the relics of optimism. Survival is getting used to being knee-deep in muck.

Of course, ugliness is TFS’ modus operandi. Ugliness and spontaneity. Guitars twitch with anxiety, bouncing off each other, just barely acknowledging the other’s existence in their pursuit of the same, scuzzy landscape. The riffs threaten free jazz skronk but always maintain a traditional sense of groove and structural integrity – finding backdoors into purposeful melodies, like when the hook of Paradise suddenly interrupts the skulk and simmer of the preceding couple of minutes. The gang backing vocals littered across the record make it feel like a cult project, and Dunn’s tenure in the spotlight on Who’s My Eugene? is the last attempt at an earnest personal connection before she and the rest of the band turn their back on the possibility of salvaging foregone conclusions. My favourite of these conclusions is Aspirin – a vulnerable distillation of Liddiard-brand fatalism that resigns a whole relationship to a curt “you’ll be fine on your own” as if he always knew he’d eventually refer to the subject of the song in past tense.

And there’s little more on-brand for TFS than the idea that it's always people that are the victims of their own narratives. From the train driver in the title track, to the narrator in Maria 62 and ’63; every character, even Liddiard and Dunn themselves, are watching on helpless as time sinks into a chasm that they can’t pass. I don't think I've ever listened to an album as attuned to the decay and mould of the world around it as this one. But there's still an skerrick of hope left to mine on Braindrops (as hope dies last in the hospital) and it reflects our last chance to rescue humanity from imminent death-by-apathy. Appropriately, the final line on the record is left to sit with us amongst the racket: "If you're gonna make your play, the time is now or never". And so the strange tourists finally interject.



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user ratings (85)
3.5
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
verdant
Staff Reviewer
August 26th 2019


2422 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

shh

Demon of the Fall
August 26th 2019


12413 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Nice, a review. Good one as well. I’m not totally sold on this so far, but it could be a grower. Last album was less subdued (i.e. noisier) and more immediate.

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Ashtiel
August 26th 2019


693 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

good review. i think going into this completely blind was a good choice because this album has me confused yet intrigued in the best way possible. gonna leave plenty of time for relistens in the coming weeks...

"Who's My Eugene?" is the standout for me right now, Erica Dunn's leads on that track are excellent.

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Halfman
August 26th 2019


253 Comments


Nice review. I agree with Demon though, not as immediately sucked in as last one. Also, small typo in the last section, “Nunn” instead of “Dunn”.

verdant
Staff Reviewer
August 26th 2019


2422 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

thanks team ! i think this one's more of a grower than a shower but then again i have a long history of telling myself this when im in need of some reassurance

WatchItExplode
August 26th 2019


7094 Comments


T/t and aspirin are early stand outs but I've still got some digesting to do.

WatchItExplode
August 26th 2019


7094 Comments


Skulk, scuzzy, skronk, and skerrick utilized in this review. Three in the same paragraph. Bravo sir, hats off to you.

SteakByrnes
August 26th 2019


15726 Comments


Nice review Jack fren my pal I love you, I need to check this asap

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clavier
Staff Reviewer
August 26th 2019


1020 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

welcome back jack

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botulist
August 26th 2019


86 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

good review. album is mostly smoke and mirrors.

Slex
Contributing Reviewer
August 26th 2019


7999 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Happy 100th mister

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DDDeftoneDDD
August 26th 2019


7130 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

TKS for your rev x)

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DDDeftoneDDD
August 26th 2019


7130 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

The album definetely lacks the punk energy from the first one. I have to say it ends pretty strong emotionaly but first part is a bit of a let down imo, creatively speaking. Maybe its a grower yeah...

plane
Staff Reviewer
August 26th 2019


7723 Comments


Man, the Drones really never got their due.

Always a pleasure, Jack. Love your musings and am looking forward to this follow-up to the excellent debut.

Digging: Blood Cultures - Oh Uncertainty! A Universe Despairs

RadioSuicide
August 27th 2019


934 Comments


these guys sound pretty sweet, gonna give their first lp a spin before I try this one, it seems more up my alley

Meridiu5
August 27th 2019


2627 Comments


album art is still on point

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WatchItExplode
August 27th 2019


7094 Comments


Gots bat boy 11/10

Dewinged
Contributing Reviewer
August 27th 2019


16651 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I knew you were the man for t h i s job, Jack, lovely review.



Album's a grower.

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Demon of the Fall
August 27th 2019


12413 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I'm still waiting for that growth...

DoofDoof
August 27th 2019


5117 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Second listen and confident this isn’t as great as the debut.



Still good though.



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