The Slats Pick It Up

[Latest Flame; 2004]

Styles: indie rock, independent rock and roll
Others: Guided by Voices, Pavement, Creeper Lagoon

With Guided by Voices about to put nonsensically highbrow lyrics on tape for the last time later this summer, it's nice to know there's already a band willing to take their place. Yes, the Slats are another Midwest indie rock group, and for the first time in ages, I feel comfortable calling a band indie rock. Or, to put it another way, when I listened to this album the first time I got nostalgic for all my old Superchunk records.

There are a lot of things I wanted to say in this review, but most of them weren't fair to the Slats, other bands, or anyone reading this review. The truth is that while the Slats don't break new ground, they play noise we've all forgotten we love to hear. Their guitars squeal with awkward feedback and surfy garage leads, the drum kit packs a dry-as-your-humor punch, and the bass guitar bubbles like it's being played out of a shaken-up can of Mr. Pibb.

These sounds have been mastered already (see Bee Thousand or Slanted and Enchanted), but the Slats are trying to prove that there's room left to explore.

And they prove it, to an extent. On the album's first proper song, "Another Physical Reaction," the Slats take the formula into a sexy-dance-music direction, with results filled with rock and roll swagger and early '90s indie rock desperation.

But while some songs remain compelling and relevant by celebrating the formula, too many songs fall into the clichés of the genre. "The New Moonshine," a droney 1:30 instrumental, isn't too terrible, but the Slats commit treason by ending it with them saying "You ready?" in the studio right before recording. Why would they do that? Oh, because that's what indie rock bands do at the end of droney 1:30 instrumental songs.

And with those genre problems come the lyrics. While sometimes frighteningly fun to sing along to (everybody scream, "Let's make it get a little colder/ In the heart of a nova" with me!), at times they are downright embarrassing. On "I Believe Timothy McVeigh," the band laments that real men don't cry and they never got to ask their daddies why. I refuse to dignify the lyrics by directly quoting them.

All in all, the Slats could eventually become a legitimate band in their own respects, but right now they're having too much fun making "indie rock records." Let's just hope the next effort makes me want to listen to the Slats and not Superchunk uh... someone else.

1. XXX
2. Another Physical Reaction
3. The Diabetic Coma
4. Automobile
5. The New Moonshine
6. Ice Queen
7. Mouth Like a Shotgun
8. Teena
9. The Rules Are There Are No Rules
10. I Believe Timothy McVeigh
11. Hello Operator
12. The War I Survived
13. Algorithms & Arithmetic
14. The Fabric of My Brass Knuxxx
15. XXX