Sweatbox Dynasty is a quick 30-minute hayride through the hyper-coloured surreally synthetic world of Tobacco… A Tobacco sampler if you will. And much like a real-world sample of tobacco, it’s not terribly good for you, but you may get a few seconds of filthy pleasure.
Pittsburgh based Thomas Fec has been fucking around at the extremes of synthpop over the course of four solo albums as Tobacco. And five albums as the frontman of psych-freak-out unit Black Moth Super Rainbow. But perhaps Fec already managed to perfectly balance the sound of your Sega Megadrive trying to eat you with his ‘ear for a ripping good melody’ on the 2014 Tobacco album Ultima II Massage.
Christ that was a good album. Despite the fact it sounded like the aural equivalent of an unpleasantly disturbing episode of Tim and Eric – replete with decaying synths and ear-antagonising samples – it’s still one of the most urgent and satisfying electronic albums made in the last couple of years.
This follow-up, Sweatbox Dynasty, has the capacity to be just as good, but sadly just feels half-formed. With almost every track feeling oddly truncated before it has a chance to develop. It’s starts off promisingly enough with ‘Human Om’, a laid-back groove that gives way to a commercial-grade meat slicer for its chorus. And the sultry ’Gods in Heat’ is perhaps the only Tobacco track you could legitimately put on a romantic mix-tape for the object of your affection without them calling the police.. And that’s about it. The rest of Sweatbox Dynasty is a collection of brief exercises in creating the simple premise of a Tobacco track, without adding any of the typical complexity you’d expect.
That’s the frustrating thing. Everything here is a good basic idea, every track is a decent enough template, but that’s it. It’s like the first draft of a brilliant novel, but the writer has already submitted it to the publisher even though none of the characters have an arc, or they suddenly appear halfway through without any kind of introduction. Actually that makes it sound like the audio version of The Room; half-cocked, deliberately tasteless, but there is something oddly compelling that keeps you coming back for more.