For a long time, Tom Fec (aka Tobacco) has been a musical mystery, popping up on remixes here and there amongst working with his band Black Moth Super Rainbow, but you never get more than the music and a faded photo of him with a pumpkin on his head, cynically smiling back. Listening to his music can feel like he’s feeding your brain through the meat grinder that is his analogue processor, challenging everything you know about what could be pop music. While some tracks are more mainlined and easy to digest, many others border on electronic anarchy building on the driving static and feedback-based tones, and yet its still catchy in the most basic way. His second solo record, Maniac Meat, is not for the faint of heart (or the sensitive ears), but give it a shot and you might be surprised as to what you find.
Fec has taken us through neon fields of sound thanks to last years solo debut Fucked Up Friends, and now we find our selves in a different part of his wonderland. A darker, more sinister place, you get grinding bass heavy dance tracks with funkadelic hooks and more of his trademark vocals, but you also get dirty hip-hop home noise experiments and live instruments filling out the sound. His heaviest and weirdest by far, Maniac boasts some of his best work to date with a couple of key Beck collaborations sealing the deal. From the get-go, Fec hits you with the crashing cymbals of the rock track Constellation Dirtbike Head. Right after you get another must-listen track with Becks first guest spot on Fresh Hex. He spits a Mellow Gold-era rhyme over a fuzzed out harpsichord beat (a Tobacco classic, that’s for sure) for a song you wont be able to turn off, or down. Thats not a bad way to start a record.
Tobacco pushes boundaries, plain and simple, and Maniac Meat spares nothing. Its pop music that tests you, and even the tracks that dont rub the right way at first end up coming around. The off kilter synth line on Mexican Icecream just gets better as you focus on the vocoding and the smooth bouncing beat behind it.The way his vocals come through on Lick the Witch are boarder line demonic, but the washing verses and breakdowns turn the track around before it loses you completly. The same goes for Sweatmother as well, but its industrial break beat makes the track amongst the best on the record. By playing with the sounds that bring passive discomfort, he gives you a new perspective all together on not only what can be done, but what can sound good. He just wants to expand your mind, thats all.
Really though, much of what he goes for though isn’t that “out-there” if you stop to listen. Stretch You Face boasts his classic sugary sweet break beat and vocal hooks as he hypes you up along the looping and reverberated melodies. The simple verse works you over, but it’s nothing you haven’t heard before. Album closer Nuclear Waste Aerobics brings in more layers of keys with live drums for the same effect as just great music to groove a long to. Sometimes it’s just about having fun with the formula that has already worked so well for him. When you step back and look at the bigger picture, Tobacco is no more mind-bending than George Clinton was in the 70’s, and is just as smooth and funky at it’s core.
Fec has transitioned from creepy voice altering lo-fi noise maker to sticky space disco with a signature synth and vocal sound that is unmistakable. I mean, what could do lines like these even mean, “you got sick from a lolli loill lollipop, you feel free when you’re kill’n me,” especially when that’s the hook. Originality has never been an issue for Fec instead, the question has always been where to go next with out seeming redundant. Maniac Meat provides the answer and the hope for a bright future for Fec as a dominating force in the world of underground electronic music. In 2010 he has found the deep end, and decided to jump right in, pumpkin-head first.