If you buy into the idea that a musician’s tracks are the sum of their life experiences, Is Tropical – named after their desire to get near anything even vaguely warm at a time when the band lived off the grid as part of a London squatter scene – should be weaving some of the most compelling yarns in modern music. Having escaped their dingy heartland, the London three-piece clearly discovered a few usable sockets on their way to signing a deal with trendy Paris-based label Kitsune, as debut album Native To is absolutely drenched in electronic affects.
After a dingy start in ‘South Pacific’ there’s an intense summer disco feel to ‘Native To’, with bleep-ridden dance loops layered over a penetrating bass line and lyrics that vary from the brilliantly surreal (‘Clouds’) to the irritatingly repetitive (‘The Greeks’). The entire album seems to have been woven together for house party purposes, with tracks hooked seamlessly into each other, sometimes with barely time for a rhythm change along the way. Third track ‘Lies’ is perhaps the highlights; a late-night, slow-building moshtronica number with a mellow bridge that seems to drip with a splash of water between the pedestrian beats. Come the slow-building chorus, it’s a track that powers its way through to a whopping crescendo and a whole lot of involuntary head banging.
There’s plenty of variety, too, with ‘Oranges’ opening with a riff that sounds like it’s lifted straight from a hair-metal number before diving off into lines on the oranges, erm, falling far from the tree. The overall sense is still of a heavily beat-driven album, though, one that does quiet almost as well as it does loud, and isn’t afraid to show a wide spectrum of influences along the way. In introducing such an impressive genre variety, it occasionally loses just a little of the flow it builds up over the course of some slightly front-loaded highlights.
If Is Tropical had been around when The Klaxons reached their highest ebb, they might well have been looking at monstrous chart hits. As it is, the Londoners might have to content themselves with having produced an album that incorporates so much interesting style variation and still feels – in the most part – coherent. The potentially huge, infectious singles – in ‘Clouds’ and ‘Lies’ – are here, but we might have to wait for round two before Is Tropical produce an entire album that hangs together in a way Native To occasionally pulls off so brilliantly.