Monday, August 6, 2012

Slug Guts Ain't No Deadbeats Anymore

Together, the two words “slug” and “guts” conjure up something immediately ugly and repulsive. Perhaps intentionally, the post-punk band Slug Guts lives up to that imagery and conjures up plenty more of their own.

The menacing band hails from the barren, baking Brisbane, Australia, and seems to be doing their darndest to find a way to leave it all behind. The initial four members came together and quickly released an EP, Down On The Meat, on Stained Circles Records in 2009.

That was followed up by a tour of Australia and Japan with bands such as Dead Meadow. After the tour, the band convened to the studio to record their Howlin’ Gang LP, which is said to have been recorded in a railway carriage outside Ipswich.

Slug Guts has gone from four band members (shown) to seven, finally settling in at the current six. Their new album, Playin’ In Time With the Deadbeat, was released on the Sacred Bones label in July 2012, and reveals a band that’s comfortable with their influences (Birthday Party, Saints) while thumbing their noses at them at the same time.

Playin’ In Time With the Deadbeat was written while the band was on tour, which just happened to be when everything was going bad. There were trips to jail, rehab, a mental hospital, and court, plus violent outbursts thrown in for good measure. Traveling from coast to coast cramped together in a van will do that. And that’s just for starters. But the band has managed to put their troubles and tragedies behind them, making it clear that Playin’ In Time is their strongest release to date.

The new album opens with a dark, sweaty and explosive tune. 

The album features 13 tracks (12 plus the Leavin’ Again bonus track) that are fearless. The band manages to create a cacaphony of sound, but carefully allows some great hooks to force their way through the murky wall of sound. Scum opens at a slow boil but sets the tone of the album with barking vocals, reverb-heavy guitar, slashing cymbals, and an overwhelming feeling of desolation. Check out the song’s official video directed by Aussies Adric Watson and Sam Dixon.

Meanwhile, Old Black Sweats is punctuated by snarling vocals, rumbling drums and bass and a swaggering, subtle blues vibe. Moving Heat features some tasteful and nicely flowing sax work, and Order of Death somehow successfully manages to mix pained vocals with almost surf-like guitars. There’s also a strong cover of Public Image Limited’s Order of Death, complete with throaty, raw vocals and dripping reverb. John Lydon would certainly approve.

Stranglin’ You Too is by far the strongest track on the album, full of desperation, distortion, and a minor-key organ winding its way throughout like an ugly snake waiting to strike. The studio version somehow manages to capture the energy of the band’s live performances.

Slug Guts aren’t doing anything on Playin’ In Time With the Deadbeat that hasn’t been done before. But the thing is that they are doing it honestly, fearlessly and completely without pretension.

Playin’ In Time With The Deadbeat By Slug Guts Growls With 7.8 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

They may be a bit retro, but they are in no way nostalgic. And maybe when they hit play on this heavy slab of sound, disaffected kids in Brisbane might have a reason to get out of bed.

Playin’ In Time With the Deadbeat can be found on iTunes. You can find the album on disc and vinyl at Barnes & Noble. Playin' In Time With the Deadbeat is also available on Amazon.

Slug Guts have a few shows slated for September in the U.S., including Sept. 24 in Denver, Sept. 27 in Memphis, and Sept. 28 in Louisville, Kentucky. Don’t bother checking the band’s Facebook, MySpace or label page. The pages are rarely updated. How’s that for in-your-face swagger?
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