- by Mark Hassenfratz
Tropical Depression is the latest release from Charleston noise-punks Florida Man. No, not THAT Florida Man--although it is the perfect soundtrack for Florida residents’ favorite activities, like practicing karate by punting local swans or driving a forklift into a Walmart. Guitarist Andrew Barnes embraces the comparison. “If people hear the music at the same time they hear the band name then it's usually like ‘Yep! That makes a lot of sense.’"
Florida Man is never tied down to the elements of any one particular genre.Their lyrics read like a hardcore record, but Florida Man pushes the genre beyond a minute and a half to two minute anthemic songs. Tropical Depression fuses noise rock, hardcore, and experimental elements that sounds like it was dragged through a gator-infested swamp. Nothing is out of bounds for them, which makes it as exciting to listen to as it was to produce. “A one-note noise rock riff is as fair game as a weird afrobeat polyrhythm,” said Barnes of their sound. “If it feels right and gives you that tingly feeling when you land on something tight, we just go for it.”
“Dirt” it opens with a shrill, piercing note and erupts into a hardcore riff that would have been right at home on an early Black Flag record. Lead singer Jim O’Connor roars alongside explosive drums about becoming one with the filth he inhabits. The word dirt is repeated over a dozen times, which is atypical of the rest of the tracks on the record. Most songs don’t have a chorus or many refrains, and this repetition helps emphasize the feeling of helplessness and desperation. “Weeded” seamlessly turns a single note repeating, then echoing and distorting into a slow, heavy riff that sounds like early Metallica. Given the constant ring of cymbals, these noise elements fit perfectly.
The intensity and sheer loudness of every track speaks to a sense of anguish on the record. Barnes says that frustration is a hard feeling for the band to ignore. “Even the made-up narratives are definitely informed by the real life hardships of a blue collar lifestyle and the classism issues that go hand-in-hand with working in the service industry in a tourism-based town like Charleston. There's a certain breaking point that lifestyle can push you right up against day in and day out, and I think that snapping point comes out in our music a lot.”
“Holy Roller” showcases a sardonic wit and satire that reminds one of the Dead Kennedys. The track opens with a persistent chugging rhythm percussion intro that threatens to run the listener down until it explodes into one of the catchiest riffs on the record. The vocals are noticeably clearer than on the rest of the record, which sharpens the lyrical content. It’s told from the point of view of a preacher addressing his congregation-- I wear this smile/It's fucking pointless/A true con man/That you would kill for. The track ends with an admission of the preacher’s true motives-- Worship Me/Envy Me/Love Me. “Life Insurance” takes a similar tone. A life insurance agent assures a client that they have nothing to worry about--as long as the check clears. Like the Dead Kennedys, they inhabit the villain of the story as they suddenly start describing the grisly details of how they punish clients. Your neck will have to break/Put your head on a stake/You sold your soul/We have control.
Barnes is ecstatic for the future of Florida Man. “We're just stoked to be regularly playing this new batch of songs in a live setting, so we'll be hitting the road a bit trying to spread the good word about the new album throughout the spring and summer and taking up new touring opportunities as they come to us. No plans for writing new material quite just yet, but sometimes the riffs and song ideas just flood out unexpectedly so you never know.”