This Vertical Slump article was written by Ben Whitfield, a GIGsoup contributor
When the scrappy guitar, attitude filled yet monotone vocals, and ‘we don’t care’ routine came through the speakers, there is the thought ‘oh great, another band trying to do this better than the Sex Pistols.’ First impressions may count for a lot in the real world, but they’re often off the mark when it comes to music and this first impression is dead wrong.
Whereas Vertical Slump are not as effortless as being apathetic as Paul Weller or John Lydon, they still pull off a level of insolence that personifies punk. Within a track and a half of their debut EP ‘Ruined Value’, you could already picture their shows packed wall to wall with leather jackets, ripped jeans and safety-pin piercings, Doc-Martins stomping along to machine-gun fast drums and punchy bass guitar.
The first track is ‘Tether’. It builds ominously with reversed cymbal sounds, stirring feedback over a rapid drum beat. The guitar kicks in with an almost lazy sounding riff that works so well with the style of the band. By the time the almost spoken-word verse gives way to the chorus you get the impression you’re listening to the Ramones on Valium and somehow it works.
‘Chanteuse’ follows, instantly more melodic and more coherent – a tune among the chaos. It’s still fast and brash but the hook comes through loud and clear. The chorus is a yelled anthemic chant of ‘take what you want not what you need. Live out of sight from those who see.’ Making a traditional punk political declaration that can be roared in anger.
It’s all well and good having your musical heroes and trying to emulate them, that’s fine, but if you don’t break the mould you’re never going to make a name for yourself as anything more than a good cover band. It was ‘Sentinel’, the third track on the ‘Ruined Values’ EP that had me thinking that maybe these guys have something unique here. There’s an almost Beach Boys-esque surf guitar through the verses which offers an innovative twist on that Joy Division sound, but despite the unquestionably upbeat refrain it remains a moody punk rock song.
The EP closes with ‘Alter’, a song that sounds like a track by The Jam with all the pop squeezed out of it. ‘Alter’ follows the rough-around-the-edges theme of the rest of the EP with the added feature of some morose talking in the background, giving the track an atmosphere of angst that makes it really stand out.
A recurring theme of Ruined Value is the fact that they don’t seem to care if two chords or two sounds clash, in fact they revel in the jarring sound that makes the listener –well, listen. The distorted noises become symbolic of the band; that ‘we don’t care if you don’t like it, we’ll do it anyway’ approach of punks the world over.
Vertical Slump have taken something old, preserved its integrity and injected it with something new. Keep an eye on these guys.