London trio Is Tropical suffer from what might be called ‘OK Go Syndrome’, whereby a musical act’s video content attracts exponentially more praise than the same act’s audio content. The video in question soundtracked Is Tropical’s 2011 single The Greeks and it is, in fairness, one of the greatest music videos of all time. Directed by innovative French outfit Megaforce, it featured gun-toting children and combined animation and live action like a demonic version of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? To date, it’s received over 3.5 million YouTube views.
While it would be a bit unfair to dismiss completely the importance of The Greeks (the track) to the appeal of The Greeks (the video), it’s fair to say that the song’s rollicking-yet-unmemorable nu-rave racket wouldn’t have gained much, if any, traction without that video.
Accordingly, Dancing Anymore, the lead single from Is Tropical’s second album I’m Leaving, comes accompanied by another Megaforce-directed effort. It’s another eye-catching – though distinctly more NSFW – affair, featuring as it does a teenage boy enacting a series of sex acts with a variety of computer-animated women.
On this occasion, however, Is Tropical’s music seems ill-served – undermined, even – by the video. That’s because Dancing Anymore (the video)’s multiple images of virtual shagging detract from what is a slinky, catchy little number: perhaps Is Tropical’s best composition yet. Featuring cooing female vocals alongside those of regular singer Simon Milner, it’s much less frenetic than the bulk of the material on debut album Native To.
It’s also one of the few tracks on I’m Leaving that doesn’t rely on standard guitar-bass-drums arrangements. Much of the album is really just common-and-garden indie rock studded with electronic embellishments.
Featuring atypically earnest lyrics and a plangent melody alongside some pleasingly wonky axe-work, opener Lover’s Care recalls New Order circa Movement. Lilith trades the Bernard Sumner-isms for some shoegaze-y ambience, fey vocals and even feyer lyrics (“Lilith, don’t give up on living”). Sun Sun and Cry are lighter still, the former evoking the sounds of Britpop and the latter the sounds of, er, Razorlight.
The subtle electronica of Video and the presence of an R&B-indebted slow jam (All Night) show that Is Tropical haven’t entirely take their eyes off the dancefloor. But, on the whole, I’m Leaving is an indie-rock album skewed heavily towards ‘indie’. At its most nondescript, it’s the sound of a band falling between two musical stools. At its best, I’m Leaving is the sound of a band smartly prolonging its sell-by date.