Flesh-eating bacteria took his hand and he can’t fish anymore. A tame cassowary pecked him to death, face first, in his old age. He named his machete kindness and told his neighbors he was going to ‘kill them with kindness’. He tried to brainwash and marry his 12 year old niece, he stabbed his nephew in the chest for hogging the bathroom. He ran across the freeway fleeing the police and hell, he even impersonated the police earlier this week. Is it poverty or rampant opiate abuse that’d drive the modern day Florida man into these unholiest of gutters? Can we blame a failing state government for a lack of access to education and impressive stockpile of automatic rifles in the public’s hands? They’re arming educators with rifles and bullet-proof vests, too. Is the atmosphere so thin down in Florida that a lack of oxygen, broiling humidity, and impending hurricane season is actually suffocating folks beyond the brink of insanity? For decades I was sure California was an actual pit of Hell on Earth but for all of that down ‘n dirty depravity I’ve seen in the golden state, the headlines are rarely any match for the sunshine state. You can’t blame anyone for their struggle when their community doesn’t exist and their government threatens to strangle their livelihood from their pockets as they scrape by, in fact these are the people who’ll be most earnest when it comes time to scream it all out. Florida Man might be from Charleston, South Carolina but they’re channeling that rock and a hard-fought place in the world in screaming above the twisted din of an absurdist existence. Their second full-length ‘Tropical Depression’ is a belt-whip of hardcore to a noise rock mouth, a post-hardcore harangue so intense and groove-stricken it’ll make a name for the yet unnamed and leave a nasty mark wherever its blows land.
Formed sometime after 2012 as guitarist Andrew Barnes and bassist/vocalist CJ Deluca‘s heavy post-rock project Gifts From Enola would slowly phase out, Florida Man would self-release their self-titled debut in 2017. They’d get it right from the start in seeking out Zac Thomas‘ Jam Room Studios (Kylesa, Black Tusk) for a professional treatment of a fully formed noise rock/post-hardcore personality. Wooden and freshly-pressed as that might sound ‘Florida Man’ was a stomper, a grinder, a drug-addled flick of the tongue at the horrors of an age where you’d almost wish the wool could be pulled back over your eyes. It was catchy, lizard brained rock music that hit upon the ‘alt-rock’ slickness of bass driven Fugazi-esque post-hardcore, the self-abrasion of Rollins‘ later Black Flag actualization, and the edgier freakouts of mid-90’s noise rock. Sure, a hundred bands could fit that description and I’d say their previous experience in post-rock helped Florida Man weave a bit more of a Cave In-esque cloud, particularly in terms of their guitar work. Most everything I could say about that first record still applies to ‘Tropical Depression’ but they’ve changed along with the rest of the world these last couple of years; The highs are higher, the lows are lower, and they’re better for it.
If you’d just been hit by a car or clipped on the shoulder by a shotgun and you just couldn’t stop smiling you might be in the right mindset for ‘Tropical Depression’. A bit piece of that greater coping mechanistic whole is the hardcore mania that Jim O’Connor brings this second time around. I wouldn’t say that he’d been softer on their first album but he’s gone nuts on this one, seriously letting loose with an approach that fits the many moods of Florida Man perfectly. The first three tracks are an unrepentant skull bash, a manic ride that doesn’t let up until the swagger if “Holy Roller” lets up a bit. The album jams into a wholly different tone as they switch gears into a lighter sort of serious-with-a-smile affect, including a swing back towards early 90’s noise rock and away from the raucous post-hardcore leads (a la later These Arms are Snakes) the album kicks off with. “Rat on the Loose” was an odd standout just for what a jam it is, a bit more punk rock (or, earlier Hot Water Music?) than anything else; I can’t say it fits perfectly but adds a great hit of variety to the mid portion of the full listen all the same. At this point I’d gotten a pretty strong kick out of ‘Tropical Depression’ because Florida Man sound so clean, incensed and confident going as hard as Unsane or dialing it back towards their more obvious post-hardcore influences. It was the combination of “Weeded” and “Life Insurance” that’d ultimately sell me on the full listen and I found myself coming back for those tracks repeatedly.
The people you’re stuck beneath within the machine, the dirt and fucking garbage you feel like every day, the paralysis of a meaningless existence beyond providing squeezable blood for the cash machine that enslaves you. If you can’t relate to the lyrics within you’re not working hard enough or you’re still naive enough to believe the folks who’d say you can do anything. ‘Tropical Depression’ is a rotten, shaking cough of dust from a weathered spirit delivered with an irony that’d hope you fell in that same hole of suffering, just so that it might watch. It won’t feel entirely like a head-on downward spiral of the ‘self’ but there’s no mistaking the existentially dire tone that Florida Man takes as they go a bit harder at themselves. If you’re reading all of this thinking it’ll be a sort of throwback to early 90’s noise rock, realign those thoughts well into the millennium at least. They’ve not gone mathcore or screamo, nothing that far-gone, but you’ll hear three decades of various fucked up and tripped out influences (including the aforementioned post-rock touch) throughout the listen; This turned out to be a big draw when I’d come back for repeated listens.
Laugh a bit, grit your teeth a bit more, stare blankly at the texture of the wall, or throw in a bit of air guitar around track six. Whatever you do I’d recommend listening to ‘Tropical Depression’ while you’re doing it, it is a fantastic modern noise rock record with a healthy dose of psychedelic post-hardcore informing its swaggering catharsis. Very high recommendation. For preview they’ve got the opener “Brain Cell” up but I’d say you’re getting half the picture and recommend trying groove-stricken “Weeded” along with the Unwound-esque clank of “Conviction” before making any bold judgments.
We will find you, it will cost you. 4.25/5.0
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