Tobacco TobaccoManiac Meat
It is clear that geographical positions mark people in the same way that one is, arguably, affected by the position of the planets at the time of birth. In my search to find a contextual justification for Tobacco’s sound, I’ve learned a lot about the state of Pennsylvania. This man, about whom little is known, other than that his name is Tom Fec, he’s originally from Pittsburgh, and he began his musical career leading the band Black Moth Super Rainbow. That’s where he learned to manipulate sound (always faithful to the analogue dogma) and shape a hybrid of foggy pop and cold psychedelics. Before going on about Mr. Tobacco, let’s go back to Pennsylvania: the founding state of the Coca-Cola nation, bathed by navigable rivers, with large agricultural operations, and covered by leafy Atlantic forests, that place is, along with Iowa, home to many Amish communities of North America. I had some very sectarian and orthodox ideas that these people ride in carts, don’t know what wi-fi is, and dress like they’re in Little House on the Prairie. However, the Anabaptists (the Amish are part of this group) are people who wait until adulthood before acceptance of their faith is required. Before that, in adolescence, they tell the kids, “Go, discover the world around you, and if you like it, don’t get baptised.” They may have grown up without electricity, but I’ll be waiting til Hell freezes over before the Vatican consents to me renouncing my faith…
Another foundation of the Amish doctrine, apart from this rejection of technology that has made them famous, is pacifism. While everyone on the planet is beating each other up to dominate natural resources in order to squeeze all they can from them, these people don’t even obligate their children to adopt their religion. Right now, these people seem fucking great to me. And what does all of this have to do with “Maniac Meat”? Well, this album, like Tobacco ’s first ( “Allegheny White Fish” half counts as an album because it came from rescuing these cassettes that we’ve treasured since adolescence more for affection than for their real value), possesses something Amish about its sound and shape, analogue veneration as a form of rejection of technology in the midst of the digital era, and something similar to pacifism. The sound catches your attention because its textures overwhelm, stun, and disconcert, but never by shocking the senses, appealing to abrupt peaks of intensity or crests of volume. There is something pacifically linear in a record where synonyms for “exacerbated” have no place. It reminds me a lot of the feeling of standing in front of an area of immense natural beauty which transmits a majestic peace that’s nothing if not moving. That must be just what the leafy forests of Pennsylvania speak to people.
Of course, all of this can be extrapolated to the BMSR sound, and here’s where we run into trouble. The sound that the man with the basketball head has achieved is as genuine as the man from the Marlboro advertisement, but it is always the same. And although he might have wanted to mark the difference between his band and his solo project with a different style –BMSR was more indie pop, Tobacco has more to do with hip hop– the crunchy, turbulent, cloudy textures weigh more than the structures and basses (not even Beck’s presence in “ Fresh Hex” and “ Grape Aerosmith” manage to bring a warm ray of sunlight to the album). This may be why, to my ears, the most valuable thing about the album is to be found where the drums and boxes are closest to the hip hop formula, like in “ Stretch Your Face” or “ Nuclear Waste Aerobics”. If they aren’t drums and boxes, they’re lines of synthesisers we find on “ Six Royal Vipers”, which serve as a nod to the current “beat-electronic” scene, bringing the result back again to the hip hop scene. There is much that is praiseworthy in this album that reminds one of Beck and his “Loser”; and those aren’t necessarily the songs that the Californian has worked on. The lazy, teasing cadence of “ Motorlicker” or “ Overheater” are a clear example. It’s a shame, it must be said, that this latter song doesn’t last three minutes longer, as the continuum of white noise crossed with that particular rhythm makes you turn your thumb upwards without even thinking about it, as on “ Sweatmother”. So in spite of being a defender of noise, Tobacco finds that, often, his best ally is simplicity.