The band’s discography deserves thorough exploration.
In 2017, Tropical Fuck Storm emerged as if from nowhere with ‘Chameleon Paint’, a politically-charged fragment of art-rock. A supergroup of sorts, the quartet comprising The Drones’ Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin, MOD CON’s Erica Dunn and High Tension’s Lauren Hammel fast became a band to be watched and their debut album, 2018’s A Laughing Death In Meatspace, was met with unwavering enthusiasm.
Since then, the outfit have been relatively quiet in terms of new music – no doubt a consequence of their success, which has seen them touring relentlessly with the likes of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Modest Mouse and Band of Horses. While we wait for the next TFS instalment, let’s revisit their releases to date, shall we?
16) ‘Mansion Family’
A B-side cover for their breakout run of 7” releases, TFS paint The Nation Blue’s ‘Mansion Family’ with their art-rock brush. Liddiard’s stunted croons pitched against fuzzed out guitars and sombre harmonies add dimension to the track. Akin to adding a hint of spice to an already delicious dish, TFS have given this track their own dash of flavour.
15) ‘Back to the Wall’
With Kitschin and Dunn on lead vocals, TFS reimagine Divinyls’ ‘Back to the Wall’, simultaneously doing the original justice while completely reworking it. Propelled by heavy-handed drums and crackling reverb, the quartet take the ‘80s pop hit and mould it into a gritty piece of punk artistry. This track serves as a testament to the power of the band’s two female vocalists and prompts the question: why don’t more tracks feature these two on lead vocals?
14) ‘Shellfish Toxin’
‘Shellfish Toxin’ is, in many ways, an outlier in the TFS discography. An eerie five-and-a-half-minute instrumental, the track pits swirling seagull cries against ‘90s video game sound effects before introducing a powerful melody of layered, gentle synth. Once you’re starting to feel comfortable, the track then disintegrates into a foreboding sonic acid trip. ‘Shellfish Toxin’ is the aural equivalent of a day spent at beach; albeit the sand is littered with rubbish, the sky is canopied by grey clouds and there’s a swarm of gulls trying to snag your half-cold chips.
13) ‘Can’t Stop’
It turns out TFS and Missy Elliot are a match made in heaven. Who knew? The band’s most recent release saw them take on the R&B queen’s ‘Can’t Stop’ in an act of sheer brilliance. Are they taking the piss with this one? Hearing Gaz sing “You used to talk that kinky shit up in my earrrs/And you would buy me pink pretty under-wearrrs” suggests as much, but either way this cover is straight up fun. Full of cowbell and dirty funk, it seems TFS can do no wrong.
12) ‘Stayin’ Alive’
Tropical Fuck Storm covering Bee Gees’ disco anthem ‘Stayin’ Alive’ came out of left field and feels like a triumphant ‘checkmate’ that knocks you out in one swift, unforeseen move. Drenched in funk, Liddiard takes the back seat while Kitschin and Dunn’s screeched vocals lead the track. Just when you think you know what’s around the next corner, the cover explodes into a distorted cacophony of deafening feedback.
11) ‘Happiest Guy Around’
Released as part of a split 7″ with Liars titled LAMC No. 18, ‘Happiest Guy Around’ slipped in somewhat under the radar. The release came as part of a project which saw Famous Class Records highlighting lesser known acts alongside prominent artists through releasing a series of split 7″ records with an assortment of guests. ‘Happiest Guy Around’ is a sonic strut through a jungle of armadillos, monkeys, leopards and the likes as TFS coo “You know the whole world’s fucked/Get over it” and “Who gives a toss about memory loss/I’m the happiest guy around”. It’s fun, upbeat and riddled with brilliant one liners.
10) ‘A Laughing Death In Meatspace’
Stripped back and slowed down, ‘A Laughing Death In Meatspace’ unwillingly accepts defeat as it embraces the inevitable demise of civilisation. “How can you condemn someone/For simply being someone else?” it asks, highlighting the sense of superiority of Western society, Silicon Valley inhabitants and the likes. “And they all preached live and let live/And yet forgot how to forgive/An ideal don’t make the world worth living on” injects a lyrical bite into the track while the melody offers a sense of reprieve.
9) ‘Two Afternoons’
Screeching guitars and a sense of doom are the guts of ‘Two Afternoons’, an apocalyptic elegy encompassing everything from Socrates to the protagonist of a Greek novel published in 1946. The depth and thought behind Liddiard’s lyrics can easily get lost in the drone of noise, though they provide the scaffolding for the band’s cynical attitude and overall appeal – something ‘Two Afternoons’ proves in spades.
8) ‘Lose The Baby’
While ‘Lose The Baby’ isn’t a TFS original, rather a B-side cover of Melbourne duo Lost Animal, their rendition of the track serves as a gleaming instalment in their discography. The band have dirtied up the original track, which is built on soft keys and gentle pulses of synth, pushing up the tempo with sinewy riffs and abrasive distortion.
7) ‘The Future of History’
‘The Future of History’ epitomises TFS’ genius, melding intellectual lyrics with ear-worming groove. No other band could craft a palatable track around the chess matches that saw world chess champion Garry Kasparov outmatched by IBM supercomputer Deep Blue. “If IBM is here to make your dreams come true/You can probably say the same thing about nightmares too” concludes the track, prompting the listener to consider the ramifications of AI and a technology-reliant society.
6) ‘Rubber Bullies’
With almost spoken-word delivery, ‘Rubber Bullies’ details a world overloaded by advertising, run by “plutocrats and sycophants” and filled with “Foot long subdivisions/So cheap they won’t outlast/Your disapproval or their doormats”. Chunky bass, lilting drums and a total sense of calamity drive ‘Rubber Bullies’ into comparatively subdued territory.
5) ‘Chameleon Paint’
Crawling along with a shuddering rhythm, tongue-twisting alliteration and punchy rhymes, ‘Chameleon Paint’ is as catchy as they come. A poignant statement on cyber activism, online outrage and politics, TFS made it clear with this debut that they’re not here to fuck spiders. The track’s video game-style film clip adds an extra kick as the pixelated band annihilate social media obsessed zombies, Trump, Vladimir Putin and a burqa-wearing Pauline Hanson.
4) ‘The Planet of Straw Men’
“They want the glory of a coup de gras/On the planet of straw men” seethe TFS on ‘The Planet of Straw Men’, the band’s latest original offering. Among bone-rattling feedback, thumping groove and a scathing review of society, the quartet march forth into the storm with their shoulders back. The track snarls as it snakes its way into your ears, begging for a physical response.
3) ‘Antimatter Animals’
“You only ought to be remembered/If you have been forgotten first” opens ‘Antimatter Animals’ amid buzzing synth before ominously half-chanted harmonies fill the chorus. Warped melodies interlace before erupting into a climactic “Your politics ain’t nothing but a fond ‘fuck you’”. It’s menacing, maniacal and utterly mind-melting.
2) ‘You Let My Tyres Down’
Clunky guitars and geometric riffs scale the precipice of ‘You Let My Tyres Down’ as the track builds towards an explosion of volcanic proportions. Liddiard pushes his voice to the limit amidst the chaos as he yelps about “Toorak tractor benefacts” and Sunshine ram raids. ‘You Let My Tyres Down’ offers searing commentary on class through quintessentially Melburnian colloquialism.
1) ‘Soft Power’
Taking “Umpa Lumpa with the nukes” Donald Trump to task before tackling the state of the modern world, ‘Soft Power’ is unrelenting in its savagery. Kitschin and Dunn chime in on vocals to punctuate each “soft power” while the track teeters towards the edge of an abyss; reeling it right back for an eerie, near-whispered soliloquy just before falling overboard.