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TROPICAL F— STORM ★★★★
Howler, May 11

The dad-rock acolytes of Melbourne's inner-north had come to see their messiah.

But tonight Gareth Liddiard was at the head of a new clergy – not his long-running garage rock group The Drones, but Tropical F— Storm (yes, really), a new vehicle breathing fresh life into the revered songwriter's career.

Tropical F— Storm at Brunswick's Howler.

Photo: Stephen Boxshall

Playing a three-night set to support the release of their debt album, A Laughing Death in Meatspace, the band quickly dispelled any fears the rusted-on crowd might have had about a Dylan Goes Electric-style departure in substance or form.

Alongside Drones' bassist Fiona Kitschin, Liddiard was as enthralling a showman as ever – pausing from his tirades of sardonic avant-punk poetry only to swig from a bottle of Jameson.

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For the most part, this could have been a Drones show – minus the bushranger schtick and with renewed urgency courtesy of Erica Dunn (Harmony, MOD CON) on guitar and keys, and drummer Lauren Hammel (High Tension).

But the highlights were when Tropical F— Storm stepped out of the shadow of their inherited legacy and embraced the possibilities afforded by a clean slate.

Theymelted 1980s St Kilda swamp rock into Sahara desert blues on Rubber Bullies; Kitschin and Dunn's pseudo-tribal vocals punctuating a restrained Liddiard's outpouring of misanthropic anguish.

Kitschin took the limelight on Back to the Wall, a soulful and haunting show-stopper entirely outside the creative confines of rock'n'roll music.

The punters got what they wanted in the end though – the band closing on a rendition (could you call it a cover?) of The Drones' Baby, which Liddiard's been belting out for the past 14 years.

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Patrick Hatch

Reporter for The Age

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