"Anisette"...oh, "Anisette". What a name...and what a song. First, it's important to establish something about the opening track of JO44's second long player: it's not akin to "The Everyday World of Bodies." The only thing the two have in common is they are both over nine minutes long. "Anisette" establishes the very organic feel of the album. It also plunges along, pillar by pillar, causing an earthquake on every impact. It's perhaps the most intense song the band has ever written, and it sustains that intensity even through a sudden change in pace and mood. It's all about robotic anger, except this robot works on a farm and is named "Anisette". Yeah. What a song.
"Lusitania" continues on the water theme...for those of you who don't know, Lusitania was the American cruise-ship sunk by the Germans in 1915. The band manages to get some cool sonar-sounding effects without trying too hard. It's much shorter than "Anisette", but it rocks all out for its span. It inaugurates the mystery of the album's middle section, which "Lawn Bowler" exemplifies. If ever another song has felt so neutral emotionally, it learned how from "Lawn Bowler". While it's hard to discover the emotion in most instrumentals, "Lawn Bowler" is an anomaly. It is both lazy and intricate, delicate and broken, frustrated and apathetic...it's like the band discovered the concept of zero in rock n' roll.
Forgive me for not mentioning Doug Scharin until now. He is a remarkable drummer. I've never heard anyone come near to his style. He is just as responsible for the angular mastery as are the guitars, and "June Leaf" and "Arms Over Arteries" prove it. The first is a noodly rocker, and the latter is a moan carried along on a fluttering wave. "Sanctioned in a Birdcage" returns to the anger of the first two tracks, and gives an early, angular glimpse forward to the repetition of later JO44 works.
Tropics & Meridians is a masterwork. The band is at its finest the entire album. It is their best complete work of the old era, and solidifies their place in rock history.