Tobacco: Ripe and Majestic

Man, I love Tobacco –don’t you? No other musician has captured the vibe of ‘sundried soda on the hood of a car’ like Thomas Fec. Beginning in 2003 with the band Black Moth Super Rainbow, Tom Fec forged one hell of a legacy under the stage name, Tobacco. His music gained notoriety for its key-driven weirdness. Each song is its own electronic-atmospheric blast. Track to track, album for album, Tobacco slathered his listeners in a gritty, candy-coated melodic mixture.

Unfortunately, Tobacco’s last release was deemed a synth pop wash-up by some certain naysayers –and even more unfortunately, his latest release, Ripe and Majestic doesn’t do much justice for the musician either. To Tom Fec, Ripe and Majestic means: years-old, pungent-sweet, pure nasty –like rotten apples or chomping on some ten year old gum you found on the bottom of your shoe. It’s not pretty if it’s not coated in a moldy speckle of black and blues. If you were hoping for some meaty synth tracks laden with vocoder-masked vocal lines –you better think again. Fec’s latest release is a compilation of all the rotten pulp that’s been fermenting in the back of his mind.

Each track of Ripe and Majestic is, of course, something that was put in a demo elsewhere or had been churning around as an unused track. Often, songs sound eerily familiar –yes there’s a chance you heard it before. If not, ten without an extra ounce of effort, they just sound incomplete or at least not of Fec’s typical quality. That said, there really isn’t a bad piece of composition on Ripe and Majestic –even if it is a little stale. On the other hand, this twenty-four track compilation is like a love letter to fans of Black Moth Super Rainbow and Tobacco. Quitting tobacco is never a bad idea, but do you really want to?

The album kicks off with the worst, admittedly, demonstrating the more ‘incomplete’ atmosphere. A chiptune line builds into a one minute ditty. “Spirits of Perversion” entices several keyboard voices out, silences them with a bass line, and cuts quickly to the next track. “Wig Blows Off” flies by with a pulsating line. Quick little inserts like these two openers are common and if you pay too much attention, it’s almost disappointing. On the other hand, Ripe and Majestic has a clear progression through each track.

Most of the album has this ‘fly by’ effect, where every time you think you’re going to get something genuinely attention-grabbing, enticing, and worth listening to –it fades to the next song in the lineup. There’s never quite enough length nor detail. Put it aside and it’s a beautiful compilation. “Higher Kind of Thing” and “Piss Vader” are near complete tunes that bring out Tobacco’s atmospheric greatness. “1-900-900-900” is a throwback that’ll bring a chilled sense of familiarity to old fans. While the twenty-four tracks do quickly add up to their one-hour deadline, it’s a blast.

So let’s say that, as a faithful and addicted Tobacco fan, you decide to give this compilation a listen –like watching a film with commentary. There’s a few stops between start and finish that warrant some extra attention.

For instance, the back to back of the bright and cheery, “Lawn Care Service,” to “Out the Dunes,” is tremendously satisfying. The former, thirty second clip, is a quick beat. It sets up for a juxtaposition with the dirtier, following track. “Out the Dunes” builds around a repeating, distorted key line. Bass adds some texture and the rest of the song floods in. Some of the brighter, higher notes from the preceding tune make their way forward –creating an excellent sense of flow. Tobacco follows up with a notable single, “Got Wet in the Bomb Shelter.” If you haven’t listened –the track balances a thick bass line and some true-to-style synth lines.

Of the favorites, “Feels Like Nothing” stood out for its quirky string bits. As the song builds in texture with digital-violin keys and a thumping beat, it shows of a fresher, cleaner side of Tobacco. “Prowler Champ” on the other hand feels more typical and will bring out more of that nostalgia for listeners. Echoing notes alongside a fuzzed out melody with simple drum beats add up to a pretty tasty track. It’s as if there’s something for everyone in this massive compilation.

Still, much of Ripe and Majestic feels a bit barren without the extra care of Tobacco-vocals and more depth. If you’re not a Tobacco fan already, this isn’t where to start, but if you’ve been following his releases loyally, then Ripe and Majestic is your Christmas gift come early. Much of the album is a quick tour through Tom Fec’s Blade Runner in Candyland style. His synth-pop lines are still sticky and nasty as hell, but without the extra nuances, the album makes for a forgettable sleeper. While on one hand I found myself listening to it over and over again, I also found myself reaching for the older, more complete releases already out there.

It’s hard to say what will follow Ripe and Majestic, but here’s to hoping this is Tobacco’s way of making room for some sweet new songs. This compilation is full of solid composition, but it lacks the extra oomph to really make it worthwhile. Regardless, fans looking to satiate their thirst will find solace in this hour long mash-up. Although it’s not fully fleshed out, Ripe and Majestic demonstrates some of the more basic workings behind Tom Fec’s sweet and sour style.

Rating: 7.0/10

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