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TROPICAL FUCK STORM @ Badlands Bar gets 8/10

Tropical Fuck Storm @ Badlands Bar
w/ Calmly, Nerve Quakes
Saturday, May 19, 2018

8/10

Tropical Fuck Storm might technically be a new act, but with such well-recognised musicians making up the group it was difficult to curtail your expectations for a show like this. With The Drones’ frontman Gareth Liddiard at the helm this act promised a roundhouse kick in the sonic pants, while fellow Drones member Fiona Kitschin, Lauren Hammell of High Tension and Erica Dunn from Harmony and Palm Springs only added to the intrigue and vigour that is TFS.

Tropical Fuck Storm made an acclaimed debut performance in WA for Perth Festival in February, but the difference then was they hadn’t released much music yet. Now with a string of well received singles and an unflinching debut album A Laughing Death in Meatspace, people actually had songs they knew and were looking forward to hearing. Their WA tour in support of the album included Badlands on the Saturday and Mojos on the Sunday, giving ample opportunity for locals to witness their irreverent mastery in action.

Perth presented some of it’s finest local acts to support on the Saturday show at Badlands, and they rose to the occasion. It kicked off with Nerve Quakes offering their gliding post-punk melodies to an appreciative crowd. The blend of rapid-fire yet watery bass lines and soaring vocals set everything off on the right foot. The Joy Division influence isn’t hard to miss, but the delivery, especially through the fresh lense of a female songwriter was icy and dystopian in the best of ways. The neo-Goth aesthetic of their sound was never captured better than throughout the brutal build up and delivery of possibly their best song to date, Shirley.

Next up were Calmly who took things down a notch with the intensity but not with the quality. They played out well-recognised songs like Used Up and Hallelujah Heartache but their growing song list is full of treasures. While their musicianship was great, their depth of vocal talent stood out the most with each of the members sharing the mic for lead vocals or all taking part in stunning harmonies.

With just the one album under their belt so far, there wasn’t a whole lot of room for Tropical Fuck Storm themselves to move as far as an original set list goes. But when you’ve got license to draw from The Drones’ catalogue as well it was going to be interesting to see how they balanced those options, if at all. Antimatter Animals was followed up with Taman Shud from The Drones’ 2016 album Feeling Kinda Free, which saw Liddiard swinging his guitar with as much fervour as his lyrical axe, taking aim at everyone and everything from Andrew Bolt to Masterchef and the carbon tax.

Soft Power is possibly the most engrossing of TFS’ tracks to date and its dynamic translated excellently on stage. You might expect the female backing vocals would soften the blow of tracks like this a little, but instead they act as a point of contrast, highlighting the menacing disposition of Liddiard up front. The repetitive phrases throughout the track were unnerving, steadfastly devoid of melody in a mechanical, almost cult-like chant.

Indeed, while Liddiard took centre stage throughout the show, contributions of the other band members were just as important. There was a little bit of dirt rubbed into the menacing bass tone that complimented Fiona Kitschin as she sang out their cover of The Divinyls’ 1988 alt-classic Back to the Wall.

Similarly, a surprising and grungy cover of The BeeGees’ Stayin’ Alive had guitarist Erica Dunn taking the vocal lead while Liddiard sprawled on the ground testing the durability of his guitar, which somehow seamlessly flowed back into their debut album’s dramatic closer Rubber Bullies. You Let my Tyres Down is probably the stickiest of the band’s melodies to date and it showed, but for TFS it always seems like a melody or even a key is something they can pick up and put down at their own discretion. The laws were made for this man, not this man for the law.

Nothing more could really be asked for from Tropical Fuck Storm, the support bands, the venue and the crowd themselves on a fantastic Saturday night show. It’s as unhelpful as it is unavoidable to compare their live shows to those of The Drones, but even on those terms they did themselves proud, with recognisable motifs running deep in the group’s make-up without being leaned upon.

You could witness the same palm muted guitar that gets unhinged at points with creative song structures, spitfire animosity in the lyrical content with a collective narrative holding it all together. It was all somehow warm and spooky at the same time. The only thing that could really be improved is a bigger and better catalogue of songs to draw from in their live set, which is hopefully something we can all look forward to in the future.

BRAYDEN EDWARDS

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