Strobe Talbot are a happy anomaly, a longstanding trio that consists of Jad Fair and Mick Hobbs of Half Japanese and percussionist Benb Gallaher, all based in different countries. The release of their most recent record Funland comes a decade and a half after the last Strobe full-length, with a playfulness that belies their age as a band—it’s an album full of wide-eyed love songs like “Superstar,” a blissed-out two minutes traversing the feeling of being “in the arms of happiness, in the arms of yes it’s true, in the arms of me and you, in the arms of love.” With Fair’s declarations, sitars roll alongside a choir of spectral voices in a giddy, transcendent rush. Fair made a video with his signature paper cutting animations to complement the song’s staggering sweetness, with cats, birds, flowers, and one-eyed monsters looking on as human couples gaze into each other’s eyes. Set to the headlong drumbeat and dreamy animations, Fair’s wordplay sounds perfectly natural—“The best thing that ever done did / it is here and it will not hid / it will not slip and it will not slid / yeah, solid! Superstar!”
Stream the video below. Funland is out now on Moone Records, and the limited-edition vinyl has a morphing hologram effect featuring some of Jad Fair's artwork (you can see a demonstration here).
Transcontinental outfit Strobe Talbot released a few records in the early oughts, glitteringly honest stream-of-consciousness pop records with Half Japanese’s Jad Fair in the front. Straddling the globe, with Mick Hobbs (also of Half Japanese, as well as Officer!) based in London and percussionist Benb Gallaher in Portugal, the group has convened sporadically since their formation in 1999, drawn together by friendship and a pure love of creation and release. In their early records the trio cultivated a loose sound, with Fair’s optimistic ramblings gliding over sometimes straightforward, often surreal jams. Fifteen years after the release of their third full-length Let’s Born To Rock!, Strobe Talbot are offering Funland, aptly named: its 18 songs are transportive and enthusiastic, charting the sweetness and surreality of living in this world and being in love. Mixed by John Dieterich of Deerhoof, Funland marries the band’s familiar jangly post-punk instrumentation with stranger outpourings of sound—like human howling in the opening track to accompany the earnest declaration, “Good fine love is my intention!” Fair has a way of taking cliches and intoning them with sincerity, and here he stretches each to its limit convincingly.
In addition to being an instruction manual of sorts for anyone looking to relearn the feeling of being in love, Funland lets this strange and exciting feeling rub up against the equally strange and exciting feeling of being surrounded by monsters. Mid-record, the ominous untethered clang of bells and machinery underlies Strobe Talbot's introduction of "the evil of the monster" ("what it does is bad"), but the songs that follow are woozy love anthems and a manic free jazz ode to the heart. When Fair shouts, "This is ours, and our hearts are strong! A new day today and always," over rolling drums and the sweet twang of guitars, it's life-affirming, and the album ends in hoots and hollers and genuine laughter. Through the sprawl and blare of all these songs oozes a feeling of true belief in the supernatural power of love, a belief that seems only to have strengthened for Strobe Talbot after decades of collaboration.
Funland is out October 20 on Moone Records, featuring a hologram of Jad Fair's paper cut artwork etched into the vinyl itself. You can stream the album in full below.