Album Review: Tobacco - 'Maniac Meat' (Anticon)

Pittsburgh noise guru Tom Zec indulges his even heavier side but ends up covered in sludge

By day, the enigmatic Tom Fec is part of Pittsburgh underground darlings Black Moth Super Rainbow. Black Moth Super Rainbow are exactly the kind of thing you should’ve been listening to, if you’d actively sought a musical education instead of just spinning the first Maximo Park record on repeat for the past four years. There, Fec weaves together lots of vintage synths, cunningly layered, into yer usual sonic cathedrals.

But this, it should be understood, is in his ‘mainstream’ band. Tobacco is his harder tack – the place he goes for aggressive, edgy, hip-electro that is consistently flying off at odd angles. Zec tempers the heaviness by adding his own sweetly Vocodered vocals to the likes of throbbing Neu! Vs Fat Truckers opener ‘Constellation Dirtbike Head’, and the downbeat plurality-party anthem ‘Mexican Icecream’. As one of his legion of tastemaker-fans, Beck turns up to add his own heavily-distorted Scientological mumblings to ‘Fresh Hex’, and later, uh, ‘Grape Aerosmith’.

Treading much the same template as his 2008 debut – ‘Fucked Up Friends’ – it’s a gloopy, soupy, sludgy place, Tobacco-land. Rancid and feral, with tracks and titles designed to evoke the plastic nightmare spirit of The Cramps’ comedy-horror: ‘Lick The Witch’, ‘Nuclear Waste Aerobics’, ‘Sweatmother’. But like most horror films, what seems shocking at first soon beds into its own comfortable rhythms.

The first half feels like fresh ground. But what remains ceases to delight. Zec is too often concerned with his flawless textures to overly trouble us with tunes. With no real heart to the drama, we leave his phosphorescent planet learning little It’s just lots of noises, innit? Nothing to be frightened of...

Gavin Haynes

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Click here to get your copy of Tobacco's 'Maniac Meat' from the Rough Trade shop

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