Of The Sun review – Pitchfork
Channeling a wary mixture of dread and hope, the Polish indie rockers tighten the slackness of previous records into a potent fusion of post-hardcore and shoegaze.
Like any politically aware artist making music today, Polish indie rockers Trupa Trupa are particularly attuned to the tenor of our times. They understand that to be alive in 2019 is to perpetually grapple with two strongly oppositional states of being: paralyzing misery over looming ecological and social collapse, and whatever emotion it is—some might call it hope—that motivates us to get out of bed every morning, text birthday greetings to friends, sort our recyclables from our compostibles, and publicly shame fascists on the internet. The band’s fourth album, Of the Sun, doesn’t so much directly address the state of the world as vividly conjure the day-to-day sensation of existing within it, forever teetering on the tightrope walk between luminous ugliness and awful bliss.
Of the Sun’s roiling energy is actually the product of fine-tuning and focus. On prior releases, Trupa Trupa were eager to embark on extended flights of psychedelic fancy or let their slack-rock jams messily unspool. But like juvenile delinquents shipped off to boot camp, they emerge on Of the Sun flexing a more militaristic muscle, their wandering experimentalism harnessed into a potent fusion of lurching post-hardcore and shimmering shoegaze.
Trupa Trupa hail from Gdańsk, the Baltic seaside city that was the site of dramatic changes in the 20th century—namely, the first battle of World War II and the rise of Lech Walesa’s Solidarity labor-union movement in 1980. Earlier this year, the city was in the headlines again, when its progressive mayor, Paweł Adamowicz, was stabbed to death at a public event. This cycle reverberates through Of the Sun, as the band attempts to chart a steady course through the turbulence of history, its newly fortified sound serving as protective armor.
Singer/guitarist (and poet) Grzegorz Kwiatkowski has stripped all the fat off his lyrics, reducing his words to staccato sloganeering that’s as brutally minimal as Wojciech Juchniewicz’s basslines. He’s especially fond of riffing on variations of a word in a kind of verbal improv (e.g., “Anyhow/Anywhere/Nowhere man/Nowhere land/No one/Nowhere”), but his surrealist soundbites can be as evocative as they are enigmatic. On the Goo-slathered standout “Remainder,” he turns a simple repeated refrain—“Well it did not take place! It did not take place!”—into a taunting critique of Holocaust deniers; the dub-punk wobble “Long Time Ago” centers on a line—“Long time ago! No one! No way!”—that obliquely echoes the old saw about what happens to those who cannot remember the past.
Trupa Trupa’s trudging, Slintian drum beats, bass-battered grooves, and agitated lyrics mirror the gruelling rhythms of the modern world, and at times, this slow burn of a record begs for more moments of unbridled catharsis like the Wire-y blitz “Turn.” But Kwiatkowski frequently couches his communiques inside alluring, psychedelic melodies that lift you out of the morass. On “Satellite,” images of technological collapse are delivered with a Syd Barrett smirk, while the psych-pop stomp of “Longing” mainlines the hazy-headed rush of the first Stone Roses album.
More than just revel in the tension between medium and message, Trupa Trupa are the rare dystopian post-punk band to embrace optimism and levity as necessary survival mechanisms. Amid the ominous predatory prowl of “Dream About,” Kwiatkowski’s exultant chorus cuts through the grey skies like a sunbeam. “I dream about!/I dream about! I dream about!” he repeats with trembling glee, before the song is overtaken by stormy distortion. We never find out what exactly he’s dreaming about, but that’s not the point: Trupa Trupa may not have the perfect prescription for a better world, but they welcome you to imagine one together.