album review - 'hot wet and sassy' by tobacco
Mystery man Tom “Tobacco” Fec, also of Black Moth Super Rainbow, is back to deliver yet another treat for his (rad) cult following, with the title promising us something Hot Wet and Sassy. Returning fans will enjoy Tobacco’s trademark odd time signatures, lowbrow-poetic lyrics, and earworm-worthy melodies (would have mentioned the catchiness of literally each and every tune separately but that would’ve just been redundant). I’m not an expert on production, but it’s a production style I’d call ‘dirty’ or gritty. From the angry “Motherfuckers 64” and “Stabbed by a Knight” to the wistful “Pit” and “Perfect Shadow” to the self-deprecating “Centaur Skin” and relaxing “Poisonous Horses,” this album is indeed an emotional roller coaster. I love the whole thing. That being said, I somewhat prefer the album’s first half. Purely a matter of taste I would say, as the whole thing is an objectively great gift to earth from one of my favorite musicians of all time.
Favorite track: “Babysitter” feat. Trent Reznor
Least favorite track: none
"Centaur Skin" The album opens with a punch of energy and a hint of urban darkness, as one would usually expect from Tobacco. The rhythm is persistent, almost nagging, but in a good way; the production is on point. Tobacco sings: “I’m a warlord/I’ve got warlord skin…I’m a centaur/I’ve got centaur legs…Magical takedown/don’t even like myself/can’t be the only only only only only one.” Basically a song about being a stranger and an alien to yourself. And that’s intense, especially for an opening track. Extremely vulnerable and likeable.
"Pit" Beginning with an industrial drill-like sound, “Pit” soon snowballs into ’80s-inspired, nightclub-like instrumentals and wistful lyrics: “Even though it ended yesterday/I know that you’re forgetting me…I know you’re getting over me.” Already, I see continuity in this album. The recurring bells are similar if not identical to those on “Centaur Skin,” as well as the lyrics leaning melancholy and reflective much like those on “Centaur Skin.”
"Headless to Headless" Heavy and gritty guitar is the backbone to this drippy, warped track. Tobacco revisits some long-time favorite imagery themes, including the Zodiac (see: “Zodiac Girls” by Black Moth Super Rainbow [Drippers, 2008]) and odd phone calls in general (see: “Creepy Phone Calls” by Tobacco [Maniac Meat, 2010]; Sbarro Hottopic (Fec’s prank call moniker); and ‘1-844-TOBAXXO,’ a number his Instagram bio advertises which, when dialed, leads to an answering machine for a fictional massage business based on his 2014 album Ultima II Massage). “So fine in the afterglow/Of the Aries to Aries call show/My gash goes all the way/Through the headless to headless dial tone…Skinny fingers giving out your number…So what it’s all I’m thinking of/At a whispering Pisces’ headstone.” The track ends with the ominous repeating hook: “It’s gonna feel like shit forever.” Over all I really think this should be the new theme song for “Crank Yankers.”
"Stabbed by a Knight" As the synths grind away, heavily distorted vocals ooze forth: “Stabbed by another/stabbed by another/he looks so sad…never knowing how I fall for that.” Seems to be referencing repeated betrayals by friends. Like, when you think your friends are all ‘knights,’ or good guys, but then they stab ya. Again and again. We have the same bells or bell-like sound present on “Centaur Skin” and “Pit” too, and I’m liking it.
"Chinese Aquarius" Instrumentally, this is the most different song on the album so far, especially the intro, which does sound sort of watery and Aquarius-ish. Again we have the Zodiac reference, and a ‘Chinese’ reference, perhaps a throwback to “Chinese Witch Guy With An Ax” [Black Moth Super Rainbow, Lost, Picking Flowers in the Woods, 2007]. Around the 1:15 mark there is a most interesting and I would even say daring sandpaper-y/static-y bridge that soon flows into BMSR-ish “la la la”s. The lyrics are that sort of aggressive/mythical mixture that is Ultima II Massage-esque to me: “You can lick my heart all softly/Like a summer breeze, summer breeze/If you can be polite and the star chart’s right/Feels like a rabbit scratch hornet bite/You can wreck a room by thinking like all telekinetically/There’s something in the walls that breathes alright/It goes 4-7-8 through the night.”
"ASS-TO-TRUTH" The stylization of the title reminds of a phone number once again as the dreamy, calming instrumentals roll in. It’s a song about a ”liquefied valentine…never much fun”…a sort of sad, disappointing lover situation that isn’t what you expected, but you still have trouble letting go of the person. “Never mind/never mind/I’ll pick you up another time/Never mind/never mind…” ‘Ass to truth’ could be a metaphor for ignoring the truth that the person just isn’t that into you. And what beautiful instrumentals; I assume it’s probably all synths but it sounds almost like horns at a certain point.
"Jinmenken" It’s weird, but with a title referencing a Japanese urban legend of a dog with a human face, what was I expecting exactly? The main instrumental riff brings to mind an image of gears spinning backwards. This song is, interestingly enough, almost like the inverse of ASS-TO-TRUTH in theme: now, the narrator is the disinterested one, with an ex-partner hanging on to the past too much. “I know you have my number/Is that you that’s on my line?/You know you shouldn’t call me all the time/I think I have your number/Don’t want you to wait around/Maybe you can find me down the line…Every time I think of you/Remember pointless days/We never realized that nothing happens/Until it’s time to break away.”
"Babysitter" I’d already heard this single—in fact, I’d already reviewed this single—when it came out months ago, and it really is probably my favorite track on the album. I know it was controversial among fans when it first came out, I think because of the production, which is extra fuzzy and distorted, even for Tobacco; hopefully it’s grown on people now, because it’s amazing. It’s just so energetic and powerful and don’t even get me started on the music video…and the Trent Reznor cameo!
"Road Warrior Pisces" The first instrumental on the album, “Road Warrior Pisces” leaves theme and imagery to the imagination. Many unexpected twists and turns are taken on this Ripe & Majestic-esque backroad. It’s nice, but as a listener, and this coming after something as lyrically strong as “Babysitter”…I miss the lyrics. But I love the bass.
"Poisonous Horses" Another instrumental follows, very different from the previous one. Horses really do come to mind, if not unicorns grazing in a beautiful field of golden grass. This track is nothing but heavenly. Kind of reminds of some old BMSR tracks like “Lake Feet.”
"Mythemim" “Mythemim” is a hard left from “Poisonous Horses.” Its 80s workout video vibes make me nostalgic for Tobacco’s “Sweatmother” music video. Aside from a few reverberating “la la la”s, this one is an instrumental too. I’m surprised Tobacco sandwiched three instrumentals together instead of peppering them throughout the album, but I’m not mad about it, because by the time “Mythemim” comes around I’m in the headspace for it. At around the two-and-a-half-minute mark there’s an unexpected, enjoyable, breif breakdown before the track returns to its previous mood. As the song floats back down to earth for a chill ending, I have some time to meditate on the album structure so far. It’s interesting that “Babysitter,” more or less in the middle of the album and probably the track that packs the biggest punch, kind of acts as a divider between the first and second halves of the album, which are two completely different moods.
"Body Double" Immediately I remember why I missed Tobacco’s lyrics: “Met a body double/I need to realign/We’re the perfect couple/Her name’s Something Something.” Thematically it reminds me of “Twin of Myself” [Black Moth Super Rainbow, Eating Us, 2009], although sonically, it’s entirely different.
"Motherfuckers 64" This gives me resenting-your-ex-moving on vibes. Instrumentally it’s a lot like some of the songs from the first half of the album, great beat and bleeding synths. Favorite lyric: “I’m the worst but I don’t care.” Oh yeah, and also: “What’s your type? Anemic.” Fec utilizes pauses creatively at about the 1:15 mark.
"Perfect Shadow" Anger about the ex from “Motherfuckers 64” transforms into sadness about the ex as the album ends on a pensive note similar in tone to “Permanent Hole” [Black Moth Super Rainbow, Panic Blooms, 2018]. “Another shadow fades away when you erased it/And if you give me one more day I’ll probably waste it/But if you could see my eyes no I’m not faking/Pulse is racing/It’s all breaking/But you’re going on and on and on and on and on and on…”