City Paper is not for tourists
Electronica artists are often insecure about not being taken seriously enough, as if establishing a mood or galvanizing booties weren’t inherently worthwhile goals. This inferiority complex has led to such unfortunate things as the not-ready-for-grad-school appelation Intelligent Dance Music, and DJs gravitating toward more traditional rock sounds and structures—witness DJ Shadow’s sad, inevitable decline into obscurity since Endtroducing or RJD2’s execrable The Third Hand. It’s easier to forgive Tobacco for his rock & roll proclivities, if only for the fact that his main gig is frontman and founder of the mysterious Pittsburgh psych collective Black Moth Super Rainbow. On his solo records, Tobacco uses the same vocoder effects and oscillating keyboards prominent on BMSR songs, but he pairs them with dance and hip-hop beats. Maniac Meat’s opener, “Constellation Dirtbike Head,” proves that the combination of oscillating synth glissandos, a hooky chorus, and throbbing beats can have a fun, enjoyable result. With such head-scratchers as “New Juices from the Hot Tub Freaks” and “Nuclear Waste Aerobics,” it’s apparent that Tobacco attended the Boredoms’ School for Absurd Song Title Composition. Like Boredoms founder Yamataka Eye, Tobacco is a pasticheur with omnivorous tastes. Tobacco’s “Unholy Demon Rhythms” is a ridiculously listenable blend of Fat Boy beatboxing and a moody Giorgio Moroder film score. Tobacco collaborates with Beck via e-mail on two noteworthy tracks. “Fresh Hex” finds the lovable Scientologist tramp rapping energetically like it’s 1993 again, whereas “Grape Aerosmith” features the kind of downer, ghostly singing we heard on 2002’s Sea Change. Beck’s songs help to alleviate the most damning qualities of Maniac Meat—Tobacco overuses the vocoder, while swooshes of vintage synths prove numbing over the album’s duration. In a recent interview with New York magazine, Tobacco worried that his music would be thought of as “thoughtless or idiotic like AC/DC.” He should instead realize that getting rumps a-shaking (or goats a-throwing, in the case of AC/DC) through music is an extremely noble pursuit. The best elements of Maniac Meat show that the inverse of the great Funkadelic maxim is true, as well: Free your ass, and your mind will follow.