Tyson Todd Meade ‘Robbing The Nuclear Family’ Review: mastermind behind Defenestration and Chainsaw Kittens unique vision still thrills on new release.
My art is dedicated to those other fringe dwellers and friends of fringe dwellers, those who want something beyond reality TV, casino gambling, car payments, 401k, church on Sunday, family portraits on the mantle. We will build new kinds of families. The nuclear family is dead. Long live the dead nuclear family.
So sayeth Tyson Todd Meade, one of the most underrated (yet influential) figures in alternative rock, while describing his new album Robbing The Nuclear Family, the follow-up to 2014’s Tomorrow in Progress.
Click here for Tyson Todd Meade Talks 25th Anniversary of Chainsaw Kittens’ Flipped Out In Singapore
Robbing (available via Jett Plastic Recordings) is Meade’s most diverse album to date, distilling a variety of genres into a captivating sonic concoction. Take opener P.S. Nuclear Forest Dance Song which conjures the spirit of glam-era Brian Eno before giving way to He’s the Candy, a catchy pop punk number which shares musical DNA with Meade’s 90s group the Chainsaw Kittens (who recently reformed for a reunion show in their hometown of Norman, Oklahoma).
Robbing plays connect-the-dots to Meade’s musical inspirations: there’s a hint of krautrock in the propulsive pulse of Tentatively Ahmed, while Confused 22 dabbles in pastoral country rock, with chiming guitars offset by twinkling mandolin and piano.
Tiniest of Guys is a true standout, a soaring anthemic number blending indie, folk and power pop, over lyrics like And you tell me everything/Transsexual everything/Oh how embarrassing. For the uninitiated this may seem especially topical, but Meade has fearlessly discussed gender identity and sexual orientation long before it was fashionable to do so.
The eclectic nature of Robbing The Nuclear Family is exaggerated by Meade’s unique sonic palette–in addition to traditional rock elements, the album employs instruments as varied as glockenspiel, violin (played by frequent collaborator Haffijy), and even toy ray guns. Yet it always feels organic and song focused and not a mere exercise in experimentation.
Motorcycle Boy # 3 is a case in point, a hallucinatory epic with Meade’s vocals soaring over alien soundscapes, while Candy Canes And Moonbeams hypnotic Middle-Eastern atmospherics (featuring sitar by David Immerglück) close the album in hypnotic fashion, recalling Jane’s Addiction at their trippiest.
Robbing The Nuclear Family proves that Tyson Meade’s pioneering spirit remains wonderfully intact, and should wow the faithful while drawing in new converts. He was always five steps ahead of his contemporaries so it should be little surprise that he feels so relevant today.