Strobe Talbot formed in 1999 in Portugal. Its members have never lived anywhere near each other at any point since then, yet they remain friends. Through its 18 years as an ensemble, Strobe Talbot has only become itself to ever-greater degrees. Their latest album, Funland, provides ample evidence to support this assertion.
It can and will be said that at least ⅔ of Strobe Talbot are better known for other things. Jad Fair is renowned for his wide-ranging musical collaborations (Teenage Fanclub, Danielson, R. Stevie Moore, Yo La Tengo, et al.) and his visual art, but he leads and sings for Half Japanese—a group originally formed in 1974 with his brother, David, but vital and productive (with different members) to this day. One of those members, Mick Hobbs, has played guitar in Half Japanese since 1990; Mick’s music career began with new-wave aggregate Family Fodder and RIO-affiliated group The Work (featuring Funland guest, Tim Hodgkinson, late of Henry Cow), and has involved a bewildering variety of projects. His own group (Officer!) is now receiving attention for its marvelous oeuvre, after having existed for 35 years. Benb Gallaher knows that no matter what he’s done, he’s really done it this time.
Strobe Talbot started as it is now—a trio of Jad Fair, Mick Hobbs, and Benb Gallaher. They were younger in the past (this is typical), but their interpersonal and musical chemistry is very much the same as it was when at their outset. Generally, Benb gambols atop and plotzes upon the drums, Mick enjoys oblique and uniquely appealing rapport with all ilk of spronging stringed things, and Jad issues de facto proclamations with winsome verve from atop the plinth thereby provided. People cool enough to dig it can’t imagine not doing so.
As a somewhat-unheralded group, Strobe Talbot has experienced many of the bumps and vagaries associated with obscurity, but has been unable to extinguish its informal drive to share and incite joy through their music. Living as they do thousands of miles from each other, they are seldom able to convene, with writing and recording occurring within applicable spasms. Funland reflects this in that it comes from a variety of sources and situations. Its identity, though, is ineffably singular.