5 out of 5
Produced by: Doug McBride, Joshua “Cariter” Cutsinger
As Tub Ring went on, the rock and pop elements of their sound became more defined, allowing for – though certainly still sound-cluttered and identifiably TR compositions – a bit more streamlined of a writing style. That’s not meant as a criticism; the group honed their abilities to really dial in what they wanted from each type of song, and would then deliver. Jumping back to the start of the game, first (more widely available) release Drake Equation garnered the most comparisons to Mr. Bungle at the time, thanks in no small part to Trey Spruance producing and a jaunty nature to their tone which a listener could associate with that Patton project. But what set the disc apart – for me, anyway – was its more direct punk ethos; a full-throttle approach I didn’t necessarily get from Bungle.
And for the next couple of albums – this one and Zoo Hypothesis – Tub Ring would begin that honing process. I’m going to curse myself a bit here, because I suspect I’ll end up saying something similar about Zoo when I review it, but Fermi Paradox represents, for Tub Ring, a pinnacle of combining their influences with their own unique ideas. Whereas Drake had some derivative touches that felt like playing to a certain crowd and Zoo (again, curse me later) has some downbeats of recycled sounds, Fermi feels blessed with inspiration from start to finish. Even the lyrics – always reflective of Gibson’s obsession with the mash-up of biology and technology and the known unknowns of science – reach a particular pointed peak, circling around fresh and weird ideas and images and metaphors instead of spinning them into occasionally predictable tomes to angst or paranoia. Regardless of whether or not later reviews support my “this is the disc to buy” feelings, what I can say – what I clearly recall – is that listening to this disc made me know that the band was something special. I was lucky to stumble into Drake Equation, but it could have been a lark; plus the Mr. Bungle thing whenever I would sample it for music hoodoos. The Fermi Paradox set my addiction in stone; others opinions at that point be damned. If they didn’t like it, they were missing out.
This is still very much on the punk side of things. A couple of lighter songs break things up (notably ‘Psychology is B.S. (Not Science),’ a personal favorite for its quote-worthy lyrics and harmonies), but otherwise this is some wonderfully manic shit, packed to the gills with wonderful key jams, amazing drum fills, and riffs-by-the-minute. The production finds a great balance of crisping up those keys and drums while leaving plenty of room for Gibson’s strong vocals and keeping the mix balanced for when all the noise starts acting up. Every song is a powerhouse single vying for favorite track status.
So in case my straight-saying it before wasn’t a clear indication, for whatever may have led you to check out Tub Ring: This is the disc to buy. It paints the perfect picture while easily acting as a bridge for appreciating any of their other fabulous albums.