Sløtface kick ass on their debut LP.
When it comes to Norway and its musical output, if you're not thinking about the country's large list of arguably not very good black metal bands, then you're possibly thinking about the incredibly varied discography of Ulver or your mind will be on the absolutely insane new record from Blood Command, 'Cult Drugs'. However, you should be taking careful notes of the young Norwegian power-pop rock band, Sløtface, who are looking to carve out their own successful path through their nations musical hierarchy. Their first big step towards that domination comes with the hook-infused chaos of their debut full-length, 'Try Not To Freak Out'.
After two earlier, merely decent EP's - their self-titled EP and 2014's 'We're Just OK' (which was a very apt title) - and two following, far more solid, better-received extended plays from 2016 - 'Empire Records' and 'Sponge State' respectively - Sløtface have put their money where their mouth is and are releasing their debut full-length record this month. Overall, 'Try Not To Freak Out' is a rather solid, easily digestible, irresistibly infectious, and defiantly fun rock record - plain and simple. This 11-track release doesn't pretend to be anything that it's not and they aren't reinventing the wheel either. Yet it's the way in which this quartet stick to their bright, catchy, distorted and fuzzy rock sound and how they double down on what makes said sound good is what will take them very far. Well, that, and writing really bloody good choruses too!
For instance, songs like the no-bullshit opener 'Magazine', the upbeat, trumpet-accentuated 'Pitted', the sunny day anthem of 'Pools', the carefree anc childish-like nature of closer 'Backyard', or fake-it-to-you-make-it tune of 'Try' - where the album's anxiety-inclined namesake comes into form lyrically - are all incredibly fun, danceable songs at heart. But they are also poignant songs with equally massive choruses a la older tracks like the utter banger that is 'Sponge State'.
Yet it's not all upbeat hooks, major keys, and catchy chords. For elsewhere, the band create a different, more serious sonic dynamic with the grungier sound of 'Sun Bleached', the slower and contemplative 'Slumber' (the longest track on record too), as well as the moodier timbre, softer drums, and ambient-like guitars heard in the dynamic and emotionally-tinged 'Galaxies'. And these shade-draped moments allow for Sløtface to deliver their debut album's best vocal and instrumental melodies as well as its most memorable moments no less. For these are the few songs that really stuck with me the most after I put this record down. Oh, and as for the latter song, not only does 'Galaxies' channel a similar vibe to that of the brilliant 'Bright Lights', but it also contains the very best chorus of the entire goddamn release and is an utterly engrossing standout.
Existing somewhere in the middle of these two musical points, we have songs like the fiery, jarring late game cut, 'Nancy Drew', a furious feminist rock track where the band doesn't hold back. Furthermore, the mid-album 'Night Guilt' even sees guitarist, Tor-Arne Vikingstad, borrowing a few cues out of Refused's guitar playbook, but he and the rest of the band than shape such ideas in their own way; turning it into a fitting Sløtface-sounding piece in the process. There is one miss step here, however, and that is 'It's Come To A Point'. While working as a nice little reflection of the band's progress with its title, the 20-second long track and is just random in-studio chatter from the band recording before they launch into 'Backyard', and probably would have worked better as just being a full opening part of 'Backyard' instead of its own separate entity.
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Musicality aside, across this record vocalist Haley Shea tackles a number of topics close to her and the band's heart.
Starting at this release's beginning, the scathing lyricism of 'Magazine' shows the singers disgust for how women, in general (sadly), are unfairly or unrealistically portrayed by the beauty industry's gross standards with lines like "Patty Smith would never put up with this shit", "Thunder thighs keeps reaching for the measuring tape", "What is an "it girl", anyway?", and declaring how she "quits" from it all. Similarly, 'Nancy Drew' (as in the fictional detective, Nancy Drew) is about providing a better, more encouraging place for women to exist in the same way that their male counterparts do within the boys club that is the current music industry.
Both serious topics, to be sure, and they're issues that do need to be discussed, written and sung about. However, Sløtface does occasionally let their hair down on 'Try Not To Freak Out'. We see this with the album's swan song, 'Backyard', as well the previously mentioned 'Pitted'; which takes a far more light-hearted tone and talks about partying, hanging with friends, getting drunk, uncaringly singling along to Beyonce and Queen, and just enjoying the moment - even if it's not quite the best night of your life.
Then, also on the flip side of those more carefree themes, 'Slumber' is a deeper, almost bittersweet track of reminiscing about one's childhood ("Even as a child I know, that I'll never have friends like these again/Even as a child I know, I'm giddy with companionship"); one that's also aided by prominent male vocals matching up with Shea's singing in the mix to create both moments of harmony and some solid back-and-forth sections. Whereas 'Galaxies' details the wearing down of the band's the personal and romantic relationships as their growing success ramps up, seeing them tour further and further beyond their native Norway away from friends, families, and lovers alike ("I'm craving the normalcy, of discussing banality, craving a new routine", and "I love hearing your voice on the phone/this is taking its toll").
And look, honestly, if 'Try Not To Freak Out' gets the wide, warm response that it indeed deserves, such experiences may actually become the norm for the four members of Sløtface as their music takes them higher and higher. The give and take with that does mean that Sløtface could very well conquer the world.
Regardless of your sexuality or gender, there is something for everybody on Sløtface's solid debut LP. Whether the band aim high with catchy chord progressions, vocal hooks, and giant choruses ('Magazine', 'Pitted', 'Try', 'Backyard') or when they reign themselves in and create more sublime moments ('Slumber', 'Galaxies') it's still got the youthful, honest and ever-growing trademark stamp of Sløtface widely printed over it all.
'Try Not To Freak Out'? More like 'Try Not To Dance'.
4. Sun Bleached
6. Night Guilt
8. Nancy Drew
10. It's Coming To A Point