Over the course of this site’s ten-plus year history, I’ve spilled quite a bit of virtual ink covering Pittsburgh-born and based producer, multi-instrumentalist and singer/songwriter Thomas Fec, best known as TOBACCO. During his two-plus decade music career, Fec has used analog synthesizers and tape machines to create a boundary-pushing sound that evokes a woozy and uneasy intertwining of tension, anxiety, bemusement, pleasure, and menace as the frontman and creative mastermind of JOVM mainstays Black Moth Super Rainbow, as a solo artist and through his production work with other like-minded artists.
Since the 2016 release of Fec’s fourth TOBACCO album Sweatbox Dynasty, the JOVM mainstay has been incredibly busy: Fec reconvened with the members of Black Moth Super Rainbow to write and record the gauzy Panic Blooms was supported with tours with The Stargazer Lilies and Nine Inch Nails. Last year, Fec produced The Stargazer Lilies’ abrasive and trippy Occabot — and he collaborated with Aesop Rock in Malibu Ken, a project that released their critically applauded debut album. Additionally, TOBACCO penned the theme song to HBO’s Silicon Valley.
Earlier this year, the JOVM mainstay released his first batch of solo material since Sweatbox Dynasty, the “Hungry Eyes”/”Can’t Count On Her” 7 inch which featured Fec’s woozy and scuzzy take on Eric Carmen‘s Franke Previte and John DeNicola co-written smash hit “Hungry Eyes.” But as it turned out, the “Hungry Eyes”/”Can’t Count On Her” 7 inch may have been a bit of a preview of the JOVM mainstay’s forthcoming full-length Hot Wet & Sassy.
Slated for an October 30, 2020 release through Ghostly International, Hot Wet & Sassy reportedly oozes with anti-love, self-hate and disappointment in others — while further refining the pop impulses that have underpinned his unique sound — blown out, bass, fuzzy analog synths, drum machines and Fec’s analog gurgle and hiss. “I feel like it’s the most I’ve been able to refine what I’m doing,” says Fec. “For the past decade I’ve had this motherfxcker on my shoulder that makes me pick away at structure and melody. Purposely covering up moments because I can. That really came to a peak on Sweatbox. So I wanted the opposite this time. Write the songs without ripping them in half. I went from ‘what would the Butthole Surfers do?’ to ‘what would Cyndi Lauper do?’”
I’ve managed to write about two of the album’s first three singles so far: Hot Wet & Sassy‘s second single, “Babysitter,” a collaboration with Nine Inch Nails’ mastermind and fellow Pennsylvanian Trent Reznor, which was a deranged and unsettling lurch between a menacingly saccharine bridge and what sounds like someone gleefully running a rusty manual lawnmower through someone’s carpet paired with laser hot hi-hats, thumping tumps, scorching synths, gurgling and bubbling hiss and distortion and the most accessible, pop-leaning hooks of Fec’s recorded output. The album’s third single “Jinmeknen,” was a slow-burning and atmospheric Quiet Storm-like ballad of sorts centered around glistening synth arpeggios, bouncy beats, Fec’s heavily vocoder’ed vocals and some of the most earnest songwriting of his lengthy — and often extremely weird — career.
“Headless to Headless,” Hot Wet & Sassy‘s fourth and latest single clocks in at a little under three minutes and is centered around glistening synth arpeggios,. blown out stuttering beats, brief staccato bursts of forcefully buzzing guitar, Fec’s heavily vocoder’d vocals and some infectious hooks. And while arguably being one of the album’s more gauzier songs, it sounds a bit like a mm murky and downright swampy take on 80s R&B — the drumbeats at point remind me of Cherelle’s “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On” for some reason. Much like the previously released singles, the track sees the JOVM mainstay playfully refining his overall sound without scrubbing or altering the weird elements that have won him attention across the blogosphere and elsewhere.