Sometimes the clues are right there in front of you and the fact that this latest sonic delight from Philadelphia’s Tulipomania comes wrapped in a cover graced by the hand of 4AD design visionary Vaughan Oliver certainly tells you something about what you will find inside. But if it were as simple as referencing a few underground 80’s alternative bands then everyone would be doing this. Well, I mean you could but where is the fun in that and just which reference points you could chose to neatly sum up the intricacies and originality of this band is beyond me anyway.
Tulipomania’s music is built on conflict and contrast, a series of internal battles between hazy dream-pop and angular indie, between fractious and shattered vocals and muscular beats, swirling psychedelia and sonorous, drifting keyboard washes, between sinister atmospherics and raw guitars. The symphonic landscaping found here is reminiscent of that point when Talk Talk, and they freely acknowledge Mark Hollis’ influence at work, crossed from its pop roots to their richer post-rock phase.
The charm of the music is that it twins a robustness in its back beats with a melancholy and almost feyness in its vocals, a balancing act that makes the finished effect as beautifully shocking and wonderfully jarring as it is unique. On the Outside is a dark and sinister affair and Don’t Be So Sure seems built more of frayed nerves and fear than words and music.
If punk music had been a quest for beauty rather than deliberate grotesqueness or goth had craved the light rather than become obsessed with darkness, those movements may have produced their own Tulipomania. Not to worry though, we got there in the end.