Tom Fec, a.k.a Tobacco, is from Pittsburgh but he isn’t from Pittsburgh. The 98′ Hampton High School grad isolates himself so significantly from any tangible sense of location that it’s hard to slap a Steel City label on his music. His MySpace page formerly stated he was from “Rural Western PA/Vietnam.” Granted that is one absurd detail of many surrounding the enigmatic driving force behind Black Moth Super Rainbow (a band that revels in high degrees of anonymity) but I can’t help embellishing this fact to explain the man’s entire creative persona: a maniacal solopsist, celebrating non-sequiturs with quixotic delight, determined to stretch his few remaining ties to reality well beyond their breaking point.
And with his May 25th release Maniac Meat, Tobacco deliriously pulls you down the rabbit hole even further, brashly slamming psychedelic electronic pyrotechnics into hard block, hip-hop beats and towering guitar wails, all the while making his 2008 release Fucked Up Friends look downright minimalist in comparison.
Maniac Meat is escalation of the highest order, not only building off Friends’ high points (“Street Trash,” “Truck Sweat” and “Dirt”) but completely obliterating any notion of the sometimes too-precious synth-psychedelia-folk of BMSR’s Eating Us in its wake. It’s a hedonistic fantasy teetering on the edge of a nightmare, capable of both blowing up a dance floor and scoring Dario Argento’s Susperia. When Meat is pumping on all levels, Tobacco unleashes his primal urges in walls of garish, throbbing stomps, louder and more unhinged than anything BMSR has ever produced.
The opening track “Constellation Dirtbike Head” wastes no time, beginning its pummeling assault mid beat as Tobacco warns “don’t eat the berries around you/don’t eat the berries around you.” The bridge doubles as a synth/guitar freak out and drum beat break down, splashing hi-hats and snare fills before snapping back into its ominous rhythm. “Lick the Witch” and “Grape Aerosmith Feat. Beck” both bump amidst a similar, unusual sample: a unique hydraulic infused riff that fill the tracks with a robust volume and sounds as if something is deflating.
On “Aerosmith,” Tobacco deftly uses Beck Hansen’s (one of two tracks Beck guested on) vocals like ethereal calls from the fog, highlighting his innate ability to integrate the multiple moving parts of each song into a single cohesive whole. Fec’s knack for avoiding the pitfalls of kitchen-sink syndrome (knowing what tools to use when and how often) make the entirety of Maniac Meat immersive rather than overwhelming.
And while the heaving slog of “Sweatmother” shows Tobacco flirting with heavy metal, it proves to be Meat’s most controlled and sinister track. Ditching his usual vocoder, Tobacco performs with a slithering, breathy vocal on par with a voicemail from Jeffery Dahmer. Along with a walloping, electronica-drenched guitar riff and skittering 808 beat, “Sweatmother” is lean and terrifying, avoiding any sense of dreamy delirium and going right for the jugular.
“Fresh Hex,” the other Beck/Tobacco collaboration, is as cobalt cool as “Sweatmother” is evil, a quick bumping bad-ass of a song pushed forward by Hansen’s white boy raps (“canary in the coal mine”). Tobacco lays off the dreamscape atmosphere and recalls the free wheeling vibe of hard charging Odelay cuts “Novocaine” and “Minus.” Meanwhile Beck is more engaging than he has been in years, backed up by snarling guitars and a thick boom-bap beat. It narrowly snags best of show from “Sweatmother” out of sheer coolness.
All in all, Tobacco has pushed his own genre forward by doing more than simply piling it on. Yes, Maniac Meat is big heaping psychedelic-hop mindfuck, but it works because of its brash exuberance and party ready vibe; a mindfuck sundae if you will. Without the fun button, Meat would be a bit of a trial for the senses. But for Tobacco, it all begins and ends with keeping those endorphins levels in the red. After that, he’s got you by the balls.