Funny, sunny bubblegum pop outfit Black Fortress of Opium begin their sophomore album… oh, who am I kidding, with those genre assignations? With a name like “Black Fortress of Opium”, you know exactly what you’re gonna get: theatrical, doom-laden, swirling art rock with a side order of goth thunderstorms. BFOO is the kind of band, and Stratospherical the kind of album, where the lead single is called, without a trace of irony, “Afyonkarahisar Battle Cry”. “Fata Morgana” is a paean to a lost, arty New York (Warhol, Lennon), infused with a Middle Eastern beat -– it’s a pair of Chuck Taylors disconcertingly peeking out from under a burqa. Elsewhere, “Cherry Blossoms” tinkers with a blues riff but is sunk by Adja the Turkish Queen’s (yup) lonely high school kid diary lyrics: “Engulfed in a blazing inferno / Submerged in a deep blue sea / This loneliness, will it ever end?” Only the out-of-left-field jangle pop (really, this time) drug tune, “Right Around Here”, which feels like a lost ‘90s Buzz Bin clip, and the closing “This Dark Clovd”, with its epic churn that actually captures the moody vibe the band strains to attain everywhere else on Stratospherical, leave any mark.
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