Release Date: May 25, 2010
Record label: Anticon
Before MP3s and album leaks diminished the “event” status of musical releases, one of the many charms in anticipating new albums was the sense of expectation created by their titles. There was satisfaction in both the speculation about what a title meant or foretold and the fulfillment of that conjecture, whether the relationship between title and content was revealed to be literal (The Downward Spiral), ironic (OK Computer), reflexive (Prick), or incomprehensible (When the Pawn…). On the cusp of the proper arrival of the MP3 era, one album that exemplified this process was Deep Down & Dirty by Stereo MC’s.
Black Moth Super Rainbow mastermind Tobacco lives in an electric fog. On his second Anticon solo disc, melted melotrons and tingly synths slither over tufts of vocoder fuzz and a slo-mo shuffle-thump. Not much has changed; it’s just been both fortified and demented, buzzsaw harsh and woozily intergalactic. Beck shows up twice—piecing together a jigsaw rap in the fleeting “Fresh Hex” and singing wispy incantations throughout “Grape Aerosmith”—but he barely registers.
The longer some formerly hi-tech sound has lingered, the easier it is for some current musician to warp it into a purpose completely at odds with its original ultra-modern innovation. Last generation's gleaming chrome-and-plastic tomorrow gets fed through a chemical bath by some junkshop customer with a home recording studio, and it comes out the other end as a shambling wreck of digital decay, Frankenstein-stitched into discolored reveries or blown-out squalls. Black Moth Super Rainbow frontman Tom Fec has been on both the mellow and the noisy sides of that mutation process.
Mystery is making a comeback. In the last two years, the inevitable backlash to Internet demystification has swept forth bands for which the unknown was their biggest selling points. Acts that have taken advantage of the difficulty of digging up information on them include jj (no relation), iamamiwhoami, and oOoOO. While I’d be the last person to call for returning to the apotheosis of the pop star, I certainly think removing the artist from the art can produce salutary returns.
On occasion, it's hard to exactly put your finger on what makes a record sound quite so brilliant. This is a problem for your average critic: how to quite capture that intangible 'something' which elevates an LP from mere run of the mill to something quite spectacular. It's even more of a problem when you raved and ranted about the brilliance of a previous album, only to find the follow up effort to be something which seems to lack the spark magic touch of it's predecessor.
One of several Black Moth Super Rainbow side projects to emerge in 2010, Maniac Meat finds that band's more or less main figure, Tobacco, tackling a second solo album that often sounds like his core group on a bad trip. This is not a complaint, it should be said. As opposed to the sometimes overwhelming whimsy of Black Moth Super Rainbow, admittedly conveyed more on record than on-stage, Maniac Meat is a glowering fuzzed-up sprawl.
It's hard to believe that Anticon, a label once known for creepy, ethereal hip-hop releases, is behind the grainy, sometimes danceable electronica found on Tobacco's second studio album. [rssbreak] The side project of Black Moth Super Rainbow's Tom Fec borrows from disco house and the lo-fi sounds of a Super Nintendo game, making for catchy tunes like Mexican Icecream. Two appearances from Beck keep Tobacco's feet partly planted in indie rock.
There are several notable exceptions, but much of the time, once a solo identity sidles up to a touring, multi-member band, you start to notice changes to the homebase. Tobacco, as the focal point of multi-headed beast Black Moth Super Rainbow, broke out in a big way — indie-wise — with BMSR’s Dandelion Gum in 2007, and since then he’s began to cultivate a parallel solo identity, releasing Fucked Up Friends in 2008 and, now, Maniac Meat in 2010. (I’ll get to 2009’s Eating Us in a moment.) Let’s be straight: The differences between Black Moth Super Rainbow and T-cco’s solo work are extremely negligible.