Ambitious but mundane
"Native To", the debut album from electro-pop group, Is Tropical, is a record that is a catchy and melodic treat. The London based band have clearly been studying their electronic textbooks as every notable synth-heavy band seem to be referenced and an inspiration here. The early experiments of Joy Division, all out raves of New Order and the more recent nu-rave stylings of the Klaxons all merge together on this album. 'South Pacific' is a warm start to the album, awash with a colourful synthesised backdrop that allows the listener to get their ears around what the band are all about. 'Land of Nod' however, is an electronic track that proves edgier, rawer and more experimental than its predecessor, complete with invitations to 'drift into the Land of Nod' seeming somehow impossible against the song's murky and repetitive beats.
'Lies' is a song that proves a happy medium; it takes the best elements from both of the previous songs, a colourful sound-clutter and a ragged tempo, which ensure that the song will become a bona-fide indie club dance floor filler or is even catchy enough to pack (shudder) the floor at commercial and mainstream clubs in the centre of town. 'The Greeks' and 'What???' are carbon-copied Klaxons which ruins the originality and cutting-edge nature of the album's opening triptych of songs, revealing that behind the band's undoubtedly passionate ideas, they wear their influences too openly on their sleeves.
Just when you thought that Is Tropical's ideas had all but petered out, 'Clouds' offers a much-needed change of atmosphere and pace. Yes, the electronics still crackle on the outside of the track but the lyrics and vocals become less mysterious and more inherently whimsical and English, it sounds like The Kinks on MDMA messing around with synthesisers and drum machines! 'Berlin' and album closer 'Seasick Mutiny' prove to be the highlights of the album's B-side but other than that, the group's penchant for sound collages and synthesisers can begin to grate eventually.
Is Tropical have created an album that is swamped in ambition and ideas but lacks the longevity and class that would turn it from a decent album into a great one. I don't know whether I'm just not a big fan of this sort of music but their tricks begin to wear thin midway through the album. A perfect album to dance to in a club setting but for normal listening and dissection, the album proves a bit of a literal headache. A good attempt from a flourishing band, just listen to it in the right place or its full potential will be lost.