When it comes to storytelling, not many do it better than Timber Timbre front man Taylor Kirk. Kirk is a champion of the deranged campfire horror story. He’s the guy with a flashlight illuminating his face, animating the night with images of unsettlingly grim realities. With every fearful glance cast his way, and every twig snapped in the shadows, he grows in conviction, intoxicated by a bizarre schadenfreude that quickly propels half-baked spooky story gag into full-fledged nightmare.
After serving up a rich slice of twisted Americana balladry on ‘Hot Dreams’, Timber Timbre mark their return with a sharp-tongued dissection of bleak politics on ‘Sincerely, Future Pollution’, a record which arrives at a time when Euro-American societies are themselves living a very real nightmare: namely, the disturbing entrance of faux-patriotic, racial nationalism into mainstream political discourse.
‘Western Questions’ acts as something of a thematic nucleus; Kirk evokes eerie visuals of Bermuda triangle tours and racial vaccination, at one point delivering a damning thesis — “International witness protection / Through mass migration / The imminent surrender of land. Cloaked in safety / At the counter of a luxury liner / With a noose in my hand".
A similar venom is channelled on the conman-obsessed funk number ‘Grifting’, a thinly-veiled attack on causers of undone progress: “brick by brick unbuilding,” sings Kirk amidst the decidedly Trumpian talk of swindlers “pilfering the nation” and “building trust through kindness / to exploit the finest”. Piano whirling aside, it’s a drastically experimental track that signals an exploration of new territory for the band. Gone are the slow, dark ‘50s ballads, and arriving in their place are shimmering ‘80s dream pop compositions.
This shift is most apparent on ‘Velvet Gloves & Spit’ with its hissing drum bursts and synth exhalations; the cascading keys on ‘Moment’ are equally tasteful, with both tracks helping string together the love-gone-awry undercurrent that often permeates its way through the album’s dense political crust. Drifting in a cinematic Dirty Beaches haze, the sparse and jagged hypnosis of the title-track also feels inventive, while ghoulish psychedelia reigns on the compelling instrumental cuts ‘Skin Tone’ and ‘Bleu Nuit’.
Throughout, Kirk’s hyper-literate brand of songwriting is fully captivating, thanks in part to his propensity for a real zinger. “I wanna dance with a black woman” — the opening line of ‘Hot Dreams’ — is the kind of one-liner that demands attention, provokes conversation, even incites anger. This time out, that moment comes on ‘Floating Cathedral’ when Kirk off-handedly reckons that “the king of devotion, is death on Instagram”, a blunt assertion that makes up in interpretive ambiguity what it loses in raw shock value.
As its title suggests, Timber Timbre’s latest record is defined by the spectre of romantic decay and geopolitical destruction that looms over it. In ‘Sincerely, Future Pollution’, Kirk and company have emerged with an Orwellian manifesto custom-made for 2017.
Words: Noveen Bajpai
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