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When O' When by Is Tropical

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Reviewed on 19th December 2009.


When O' When

By Is Tropical

Debut single from enigmatic London three-piece Is Tropical, sneakily taps into several genres that are currently enjoying a boom in popularity, to create something unique, but with broad appeal.

'When O' When' is a multi-faceted epic that clocks in at over five minutes, and kicks off by making a play for the alt-folk crowd. An introduction of lamenting harmonica and acoustic guitar provides a beautifully mournful backdrop to the languishing vocals. The song's central lament of "when o' when / o' when / o'when" loops softly around itself in an hypnotic fashion that's oddly moving.

Not content with a corner of the alt-folk market, Is Tropical make a bid for another lucrative genre: electro-indie, as they launch into a satisfyingly crunchy riff and fizzy synth combo, topped off with scuzzy vocals. It's a perfectly-formed electro-indie snippet you could easily imagine expanded into the sort of electro-indie anthem the NME would go mad for.

Is Tropical do put a foot briefly wrong with 'When O' When,' with a section of random drumming that feels sloppy and confused, and which will have you wondering whether this five minute epic is about to lose its way. Thankfully, it doesn't, quickly getting back on track with an arc of scuzzed-up riffs.

Is Tropical pack more outside-of-the-box thinking into one song, than many bands manage in an entire album's worth of material and, even more impressively, they fashion it into a coherent whole.

B-side 'Seasick Mutiny' is a near-instrumental that takes a fairly standard indie-rock bounce, and constructs a sea-shanty atmosphere with the addition of whistles and jaunty keyboard refrains. It's nowhere near as accomplished as the A-side, but it's another subtly unclassifiable song, and the second example of Is Tropical refusing to follow the crowd.

Is Tropical's debut single borrows elements from disparate genres, and meticulously fashions them into something that little bit different. A vaguely indie-themed release, and a must-hear for anyone who might be losing faith in this over-saturated genre.



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