Review Summary: Tell your friends!
Have you ever pegged a bag of wine onto a clothesline, gathered a group of friends around it as if it were a campfire of yore, and surrendered your free will as it relates to alcohol consumption to the Old Gods of action, reaction, and centrifugal force? This curious Australian ritual — fittingly titled Goon of Fortune by its progenitors — acts as a fitting allegory for the Tropical Fuck Storm experience. The goon's clunking, grinding journey around the rusted pole that anchors it to this earth and its inevitable arrival at (and consequently down) some poor patron's gullet is much like Tropical Fuck Storm's sputtering song structures chugging along in fits and starts, liable to spin out of control or meekly tail off on its way to an inevitable terminus. And once they get there? Drink up. It's gonna get messy.
Tropical Fuck Storm's accolades far outweigh that awkward, capitalised “Fuck” that squats in the middle of their name, gleefully prising its cheeks apart, making you sound like a right drongo whenever you endorse them publically. A Laughing Death in Meatspace
showcased a band flaunting a serrated edge reminiscent of days where rock music still felt dangerous, telling vivid stories of people living in society's margins with a sympathetic bent, and – of course – speaking truth to power, all over top of screeching off-kilter, melodic, thoughtful, and ferocious acid rock. Sound good? It is. Deep States
is even better.
The components are the same as they ever were. The rhythm section remain a beautiful oddity, with Lauren Hammel's stuttering drums and Fiona Kitschin's succinct, cheeky bass playing leaving plenty of empty space for guitars to wail over with enough whammy bar abuse and effects wizardry to render Kevin Shields' anus an indispensable tool for any aspiring bricklayer. Gareth Liddiard's vocals switch between grizzled yelling, melancholic crooning, slurring speech, and even a touch of falsetto, wielding equal amounts of commanding gusto across these modes. Fiona Kitschin and Erica Dunn are no slouches in the vocal department either, whether stepping in to add harmony or counterpoint, or taking the reins for entire songs.
plays out like a series of meticulously choreographed explosions, and sifting through the detritus for specific highlights presents a unique challenge in that as soon as you pick one thing up to look at, something else catches your attention. Reflecting on it is like waking up after a particularly gung ho game of Goon of Fortune, conjuring memories of maniacal laughter, a fumbling brawl under yellow street lights on a stifling Australian evening, the warm sting of bile in your mouth in the early hours of the morning, unsure which fragmented memory should take precedence in the aftermath.
Where to start with this doomed recollection, then? Let's choose the words. As the album title suggests, Deep States
touches upon conspiracy, with particular sympathy to the people who fall prey to ideological snares so unforgiving as to swallow them up whole. “Blue Beam Baby” sees the band construct a “pining homage to Ashli Babbitt, the woman shot as she tried to breach the U.S. Capitol, her MAGA heart warped by that Blue Beam conspiracy theory involving NASA, Antichrists, and technology, presumably as updated by Q” [taken from the album's official bio]. In the song's story, its protagonist catches sight of something happening behind closed doors, to which Liddiard responds as if caught in euphoric reverie, “Can you see what I see?
” The empathy towards its subject is palpable not just lyrically, but in the band's performance. On paper, this song could've been distasteful, but the restraint and class of the musicians quashes this notion entirely.
Speaking of restraint, I'm struggling not to write hundreds of words for just about every track here. Each is so singular, so well-constructed, that pulling them apart is really no chore. Sometimes it's just a small moment. One-liners like “when I'm talking arms length I'm talking knuckle draggers
” and “I'll take the wages of sin over the minimum wage
” on “G.A.F.F.”; the beautiful respite to be found from the album's chaos in “New Romeo Agent”; or the album-closing waves of warm fuzz on “The Confinement Of The Quarks.” Sometimes it's something much bigger. On “The Greatest Story Ever Told” Jesus himself laments for the human race, crooning that “nobody listens to me anyway
” as the song slowly heats up. Its sluggish build is rapidly and unexpectedly torn away and replaced by acidic hot fuzz, accompanied with a denouncement that “there ain't no end of days
On two occasions the album is so successful in its lofty ambitions that it'll leave you dumbstruck. The Great Flood as seen from the perspective a donkey was never on my musical bucket list, yet now that I've heard Tropical Fuck Storm peel back their song writing to deliver the melancholic lines, “See I might be a donkey / and I'm as tired as I am grey / but I've only ever been a beast of burden / and I say let it rain rain rain rain rain / harder
” I'm now thoroughly convinced that I exist in the best timeline. As if “The Donkey'' was just a run-of-the-mill narrative success for the band, they follow it with a slice of poetry that must've been an absolute nightmare to piece together in “Reporting Of A Failed Campaign”. Across three stanzas, we're introduced to an amoral news reporter, her network boss that survived a Polish camp way back in '45 and has married seven times, and a conman who has cameras installed in the bedrooms of the Château he uses to “lure the rich high fliers.
” In just three more stanzas, these characters' stories intertwine in dramatic fashion, with adultery, blackmail, and suicide rounding out the tale. The whole thing is ludicrous, but it's executed with so much flair that it can't be denied.
With the surface now gently scraped, allow me to reiterate that you owe Deep States
a particularly active listen. There are surprises aplenty tucked away in this scuzzy-ass album, and explaining them in depth will do them no justice. Tropical Fuck Storm's latest record simply reproves their enigmatic worth, and then doubles down on it in a way that no other artist comes close to emulating. The finished product marries so many disparate elements — Australian culture and slang, American conspiracy, COVID lockdowns, biblical events as witnessed by Equidae, sci-fi fan-fiction — in a way so thoroughly contemporary, cogent, and relevant that it makes Bo Burnham's latest phenomenon seem like an undergraduate’s last-ditch effort at scraping a C after an all-nighter. Deep States
avoids stuffy intellectualism or political buzz words in its approximation of modern woe, and becomes an engrossing distillation of just how fucking bizarre the world is as a result. The mirror that Tropical Fuck Storm hold up here could only be held by them — well, it's hard to imagine a band with a more sensible name pulling this sort of shit off anyhow.