Brooklyn based foursome Total Slacker are back after a three year hiatus with Slip Away the much anticipated follow-up to their first studio album Thrashin‘. The current line-up consists of founding members Tucker Rountree (guitar and vocals) and bassist Emily Oppenheimer along with Zoe Brecher on drums and guitarist David Anthony Tassey.
Total Slackers’ sound couldn’t be more ‘en vogue’ with the current 90’s grunge revival. There is a clear nod to the Seattle grunge scene that emerged in the mid 1980’s which was inspired by heavy metal and punk. Echoes of Nirvana and Sonic Youth can be heard throughout the album while Tucker Rountree exhibits the classic, distant, moody, teen angst driven frontman image reminiscent of Cobain.
Thrashing guitar riffs and violent drumming kickstart the opening track Out of Body Experience. Rountree’s unique voice is instantly recognisable, once being described by Rolling Stone Magazine as: “hovering vocals…Listless and languid phrasing”. Rountree’s voice manages to dominate over the deafening guitar fuzz while still maintaining a certain nonchalance typical of alternative rock frontmen.
As Keep the Ships at Bay kicks in a pattern of reverb-laden guitars, heavy riffs and catchy choruses begins to emerge and continues throughout the other ten songs. On their official Facebook page the band describe their genre as ‘slimegaze’. While there is no official definition for this self-coined term it does manage to somehow encapsulate the sound they create between distorted guitars and Rountree’s vocal drawl.
One of the most notable tracks on the album is Sometimes You Gotta Die. The track opens with a slow-tempo, ominous guitar riff that gradually makes way for a deep bass that perfectly accompanies the angst-filled lyrics of the song. The song was no doubt written as a reaction to the death of their drummer Terence Connor, who was struck by a hit-and-run in October of 2012. They went into the studio within two months of his death when everything was no doubt still raw. Their confusion and despair during this period is palpable throughout the album. They attempt to make sense of this sudden tragedy with lyrics such as; “sometimes you’ve gotta cry just to know you’re alright, sometimes you’ve gotta die just to know you’re alive”.
Even though the album was written at a time of great change and emotion within the band they still manage to maintain some of there tongue-in-cheek humor in songs such as Fight the Babysitters Boyfriend and Thighmaster; ” I got a Thighmaster, it makes you feel good, I got a Thighmaster and I’m working on my body tonight”.
Sadly Slip Away does just that, it fails to reach any kind of zenith instead just plodding along with excessive repetition and a lack of innovation. Rountree’s aloofness becomes draining by the end, bordering on ‘not arsed’ but then again the name Total Slacker didn’t fall out of the clear blue sky!