There are no debut album nerves from this assertive bunch and Shea’s forceful vocals together with Lasse Lokøy’s punchy bass lines are memorable features of just about every track
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Norwegian punk pop outfit Sløtface were known as Slutface until not so long ago but social media censorship issues changed that, though the pronunciation remains the same anyway. However you say their name they are testament to the high musical quality across all genres arising out of that small country.
They’re from oil territory, Stavanger, though vocalist Haley Shea’s name doesn’t suggest a Viking background. There’s a distinctly marauding feel to their songs though with hard driving punk delivered at the speed of Usain Bolt from the first note to the last on debut album ‘Try Not to Freak Out’. At times they’re a metaphor for a riot that’s about to happen.
And there’s a feminist twist. Indeed, Shea has a thing about making concert mosh pits a safe space for females. They won’t be swapping shirts with Cabbage then?
It’s almost like 1976 revisited at times as Sløtface take on the world of acceptable middle of the road pop and the increasingly blurred lines between it and what is supposed to be its alternative. Shea’s mother was a punk; we’re well into second generation now. In opening track ‘Magazine’, she blurts out repeatedly “Patti Smith would never put up with this shit” and mum would probably agree. Then in ‘Nancy Drew’, she complains about “10,000 hours falling asleep to singer-songwriter tunes”, and bemoans “boys with acoustic guitars”. Coincidentally it’s a track that has a gloriously climactic ending, befitting of the very best indie-rock bands.
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The invective is constant. Sløtface’s lyrics are highly reminiscent of the narrative of Hallgrimur Helgason’s novel 101 Reykjavik in which the characters consistently slag each other off in arcane language from page 1 while the lead character speaks as others might only think as if there’s a cartoon text balloon coming out of his head. “All we ever seem to talk about is puking our guts out” advises Shea in the opening line of ‘Galaxies’, then “I can’t stand this healthy stuff anymore”. We get the point.
There are lighter moments. ‘Slumber’ is as close to a ballad as a punk band is likely to get, ‘Try’ has some bluesy riffs early doors, while ‘It’s Coming to a Point’ is an 18-second spoken outburst by Shea that could be an out-take from Win Butler in a recording session for ‘Everything Now’. Some would call it filler. Others, art.
‘Pitted’, the first single taken from the album and the strongest on melody, is an anthem to getting out of the house and partying instead of staying at home and feeling sorry for yourself; “a song full of good stories from bad nights out”. Shea sings jokingly of having to “Play Marry-Fuck-Kill with every actor that’s ever played James Bond” and when she does make it out of the door “…there’s that one song on, I hope for Queen B, but I can fake it to Bohemian Rhapsody”.
Pitted is also the first song on which Sløtface has employed horns, and avant-garde ones at that, courtesy of jazz musician Simen Kill Halvorsen and his trumpet, which add to the chaotic feel. Norway is huge on jazz; half the musicians there seem to have been raised on it and there always seems to be a place for it in the repertoire of most Norwegian artists, even punky ones.
There are no debut album nerves from this assertive bunch and Shea’s forceful vocals together with Lasse Lokøy’s punchy bass lines are memorable features of just about every track.
For a band that once supported 1980s pop idols A-Ha, there is something gloriously anarchic about Sløtface. The original name was chosen to be provocative and evokes Millwall FC’s fans’ mantra “nobody loves us…we don’t care”.
One critic said in a review of an earlier EP, “We have seen the future, and its name is Sløtface”. Fanciful perhaps, but others were saying much the same in 1976 and they were right. Well, for a few years at least. The difference this time around is that apart from offering Anarchy in Norway, Sløtface gives you proper tunes as well.
Sløtface’s album-supporting headline tour starts in the UK on 28th September…
28 Bournemouth, 60 Million Postcards
29 Birmingham, Actress & Bishop
30 Leeds, Brudenell Social Club (Games Room)
01 Manchester, Soup Kitchen
03 York, The Basement
04 Hull, The New Adelphi
05 Derby, The Venue
06 Sheffield, The Picture House Social
07 Newcastle, Think Tank?
09 Edinburgh, Sneaky Pete’s
10 Glasgow, The Broadcast
12 Liverpool, The Magnet
13 Stockton, KU
16 Nottingham, The Bodega Social Club
17 Leicester, The Cookie
18 Southampton, The Joiners
19 Plymouth, The Underground
20 Bristol, The Louisiana
21 Reading, The Purple Turtle
24 Brighton, The Hope& Ruin
25 London, Camden Assembly
26 Oxford, The Cellar