Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Slender Means "rock&roll machine" ep

I was fortunate enough to have a copy of the new Slender Means ep, titled Rock&Roll Machine, hand delivered to my mailbox last week.

As it turns out, one of the Slender Means guys lives pretty close to me. So, it was kind of odd to come home and find an envelope in my mailbox with no address... just "to gary, from slender means." But, I was pleased as punch to get a copy, as I was a big fan of their debut release, Neon & Ruin (side note: these guys like their ampersands!).

I'm going to do a track-by-track breakdown on this one, starting with...

Track 1 - Fade Out
The opener of the new ep would have easily fit onto Neon & Ruin, and thus it comes as no surprise that it was recorded during the same sessions as that record. In general Josh's vocals tend to be pitch perfect and pleasant. That remains true here, as well, but the tune has a little more "sneer" than much of Neon & Ruin. This track has a great organ-driven, almost garage feel. They're not as ragged or rough as a garage rock band, but this one is driven by that spirit and married with a super catchy melody. [blogger note: As of right now you can download this track free from their myspace page]

Track 2 - Ship Wrecked
Now here's an interesting track. The verse oddly uses a sort of Afro-Caribbean groove in the drums and bass, with a ringing, echoing guitar. The band does a great job of reflecting the lyrical content, which is speaks of a "drowning sailor" and being "ship wrecked and left for dead." I'm not sure if this is a metaphor for loneliness or if they're just painting a picture/telling a story. What this song lacks in hooks it makes up for in scene setting. Not their strongest tune. But, not a throw-away, either.

Track 3 - Foreign Legion
Foreign Legion opens with a drum machine and keyboard, laying the foundation for a soaring falsetto vocal. Two bands pop into my head right away with this song - Portishead and Coldplay. According to the liner notes, this one was recorded by Josh (alone, presumably?), and while it maintains a bit of a demo quality in terms of being so different than the sounds we're used to hearing from Slender Means, it's a very pleasant track.

Track 4 - The Comet (live)
This song really underscores how strong a live act Slender Means is. The first time I listened to it, I had no idea it was live until Cheryl Waters makes the announcement about KEXP after they end the tune! Wow. Album quality performance in a live setting. And having done an in-studio at KEXP fairly recently, I applaud loudly for them pulling off such nearly perfect vocals. The track itself is is typical Slender Means - solid, catchy, melodic.

If I have a criticism of Slender Means it would be that I'd like to hear a little more fire in their bellies. They're such a solid act and write great songs. But, I do get a sense of detachment from them that I can't quite describe in robust terms. A friend of mine used to say that good rock and roll requires a certain amount of stupidity, and I think I would turn the "stupid" button up about 10% with Slender Means.

But, don't let that stop you from picking up this otherwise stellar release that's worth a close listen.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I feel that they are to careful on their recordings. I do love their songs, but feel they lack an edge that is needed. This is a great ep though, and I could see the first three tracks being on the radio. The 3 track is worth a million dollars, and will have you makin' moves and getting your goove on in no time. I can't wait to hear there newest stuff. I hope they have a full length coming out soon.