Published Sep 14, 2018Boston band Slothrust's newest album, The Pact, opens with frontwoman Leah Wellbaum telling us, "I do what I want" on "Double Down," foreshadowing not just The Pact, but a motto for Slothrust as a band. Slothrust have always been forceful, experimental and unapologetically bizarre — and, as expected, The Pact follows suit.
Each of the 12 tracks harbours a unique identity. Sure, we can box Slothrust in by referring to them as a '90s-inspired grunge band, but The Pact proves them unafraid of breaking down those walls. We're still subjected to Wellbaum's lyrics, which are almost always about the seedy underbelly of mundane reality. Kyle Bann's bass riffs are still clean and Will Gorin's drumming still finds perfect balance between clean mechanics and static grunge. The Pact is familiar, yet still offers proof of growth.
That growth can be found in "Walk Away," a near-flawless ballad where Wellbaum bares it all. "I'm sick of feeling like I'm living for someone else / you know it breaks me down to watch you blindly love yourself / but I can't so I don't and I won't," she sings, before erupting into a lengthy guitar solo. "On My Mind" and "Some Kind of Cowgirl" veer into synth-rock territory, while "Travel Bug" and "New Red Pants" play with Midwestern folk. The Pact transitions between full, power-chord grunge and stripped-down acoustics; it's postmodern, it's attention-grabbing, it's polished and powerful.
Yet you can still tell that Wellbaum is committed to grunge, and rightfully so, since she does it so well. On "Fever Doggs," she screams "always bad/ never good" repeatedly as the song ends. The lyrical mundanity nods to traditional grunge; like Kurt Cobain once said, "married, buried" — and if that doesn't remind us all that happiness has an expiry date, then what does?
The Pact is an experiment gone right. It's authoritative when we need a punch in the gut and vulnerable when we need someone to relate to. (Dangerbird)