Sincerely, Future Pollution by Timber TimbreRelease date: April 7, 2017
Label: City Slang
If David Lynch’s Twin Peaks was a band it would be Timber Timbre. Their music is eerie, haunting, full of misdirection and highly sophisticated. A causal listen and one could be forgiven for assuming their work was lounge music appropriate in second tier hotel in a second tier town. The genius is in the subtleties. It is in the uncomfortable keyboard sounds, the deliberate rhythmic mismatches or odd number repetitions, the slightly-too-long pauses between notes, and, of course, the lyrical forks and divides, forks and divides.
2014’s Hot Dreams was my favorite record of that year. It was a near perfect work. The band returns in 2017 with Sincerely, Future Pollution. This album marks a slight directional change. Not only is it more overtly thematic, less impressionistic, and more a direct stare into the palpable societal anxiety that appeared to be omnipresent in the past few years, it is also more of a dance record. That is, if such a thing were possible for a band like Timber Timbre. One gets the sense that the band is drawing from the malaise and rot of the 1970’s and oblivious materialism of the early 1980’s in more ways than one in conjuring a metaphor for our time. There are elements of funk, disco and new wave on this record, although they are oddly timed and never quite content. It is dance music for cadavers.
Does it work? Not entirely. It is an excellent record and contains some of the best songs the band has written. However, it is somewhat less consistent than Hot Dreams. That may not be an entirely fair comparison, though. If I heard this album without Hot Dreams as a reference, I might be a little more forgiving. Bands have to be allowed to experiment to grow and given that this is the band’s fourth album, they’ve certainly earned the right to do so. Sometimes those experiments lead to Kid-A type success and sometimes they don’t.
That said, the album contains two of my favorite of their songs. ‘Grifting’ is the most overtly 70’s influenced song on the record, anchored by a Dr. Frank. N Furter foot-stomp of a bass and kick and topped with funk keyboard riffs that are in time, but not quite in synch. It explores societal decay through the not-so-subtle metaphor of swindle and confidence games. At heart it is a political commentary, where reckless gamblers and fools both take advantage of and are taken advantage of. The density of the lyrical content juxtapositioned by a groovy backdrop helps hold the song up to repeated listens.
‘Western Questions’ is probably my favorite Timbre Timbre song from any album. Lyrical content aside, it is a beautifully constructed ballad of sorts with a really infectious chorus hook. While the song feels intimate, as do most Timber Timbre songs, here the listener is in fact treated to long panning wide lens shots of displaced peoples, vanishing civilizations, xenophobia and occupational apartheid. The lyrics are some of the most haunting on the record. Especially memorable is the image of a floating cathedral that disappears into the sewer while lights of computer casinos flash and we relax, our love life published, our only concern that we are not forgotten – while we are completely forgettable. The image was inspired by the city of Venice, which to Taylor Kirk, singer and lyricist, represented the fragility and impermanence of societal structures. “So heavy and teetering, perched over a giant sewer. It also seemed an apt metaphor for love, and the frivolity of that worship.”
The full album experience is a bit like being tied up, blindfolded and hearing the breathy whispers of your dominant in your ear. You are in a second tier hotel in a second tier town. You are emotionally weighed by the filth and stress of modernity. Your sins and those of those around you gel and harden into an unshakable original guilt. You face is covered in sex fluids. You care, but you don’t want to. You think to better times, and that one person you may have loved. What was her name, again?