With Black Moth Super Rainbow on hiatus and three of its members releasing solo albums (its MySpace page also now bases them in Chicago, not the Pittsburgh region), it seems safe to assume bandleader Tobacco is moving on. With his new sophomore release, Maniac Meat, this may be our last occasion to think of him in the context of BMSR, or as a "local musician" (except in the originally-from-here, Christina Aguilera sense). And hey, who could blame him if he took the smoking ban a bit personally?
BMSR's psychedelic ooze usually maintained a folky quality -- banjos and such -- and dripped at a stoner-friendly, corn-syrup pace, but with Maniac Meat (out May 25 on Anticon), Tobacco invites you to pass the bong and step from the couch to the dance floor. He combines his signature vintage synths, vocoders and addled lyrics with fuzz bass and clanking hip-hop beats, like some weird mix of Daft Punk, Justice, early Eno and the Bladerunner soundtrack fed through daisy-chained distortion pedals.
Maniac Meat also sounds a bit like early Beck -- and for good reason. The album's press materials (Tobacco seldom grants interviews) note that Mellow Gold is his "favorite record of all time," and both "Fresh Hex" and "Grape Aerosmith" feature vocal contributions from Beck. While Beck long ago moved into the more conventional realms of Modern Guilt, Sea Change and all that, here, his voice over Tobacco's madness are a timewarp back to the anarchic play of early releases like Stereopathetic Soul Manure, Mellow Gold or Odelay.
While his 2008 solo debut Fucked Up Friends sounded exploratory, Maniac Meat moves with a more confident swagger. The album opens with "Constellation Dirtbike Head," all trashy drums and pitch-wheel abuse, as Tobacco warns, "don't eat the berries around you." "Heavy Makeup" starts with a low, distorted riff and the sinister lyrics, "you got sick from a lolly-lolly-lollypop / you feel free when you're killing me"; midway through, the track suddenly downshifts in both pitch and tempo, as if to say, "Oh, you wanted heavy? Here ya go."
While Tobacco manages a fairly wide range of sounds and moods, the 16 tracks are a bit much for one sitting, and a few seem like filler. He does end with a barn-burner though -- "Nuclear Waste Aerobics," which in this case proves a blandly descriptive title.
You're not likely to catch Tobacco playing Pittsburgh anytime soon, but just in case, keep an eye peeled at www.myspace.com/tobacco.