Certain songs seem better suited for certain situations. Adjectives such as autumnal or wintry confirm the manner with which different times of the year evoke specific emotions, fertile territory for artistic production. Not so long ago, the pop culture correspondents at the Onion's A.V. Club published a thoughtpiece on seasonal listening habits. If we refer to the A.V. Club's 15 June consideration of this phenomena as timely, it is due to summer's privileged position in pop's sociological imagination. Since the dawn of rock 'n' roll, and continuing well past its twilight (if you're one of those people), there has never been a shortage of songs celebrating the summery pleasures so central to adolescent experience. Ideally, these tunes should be conducive to loud volumes in fast cars.
The A.V. Club is an American website. Does the script change in Taiwan, where summer represents not so much a hazy two month party, respite from the winter's chill, as a wicked seven-month exercise in amateur entomology, semi-pro disaster preparation, and major league perspiration? Those aforementioned adolescents are sweating through their summer classes in windowless rooms, while the windowless Chevrolet's am sound / of the radio on is replaced with the whirring din of onward scooters. Whither goes the sound of summer?
One week before the global culture industry mass-released Will Smith's latest popcorn vehicle into air-conditioned multiplexes, local trio Slack Tide headlined a record release show at Revolver. The band were promoting their debut full-length, Security. Secure is the confidence with which the album delivers nine tracks steeped in the traditions of the American indie underground. Even if it be a coincidence of production schedule, it is auspicious that the group should release this set of songs in time for the summer movie season. Accordingly, let us consider the refrain of a certain Fresh Prince single released that Year That Punk Broke:
Summer, summer, summertime / time to sit back and unwind.
There is no denying the lazy, hazy charms of Security's first track ('Denial'). Gently chiming guitar chords evoke endless afternoons spent lounging on some gentle lake. Picture a tire-swing swaying gently in the background. Now imagine that dynamic duo, massive fuzz guitar and crashing drums, yelling CANNONBALL and blasting it all away. We're all wet, and the song's verses swing along to an affable surf beat. Laconic lyrics dissolve in a lemonade-sweet drawl. I'm fine, the chorus pleads, and so are we.
The band swings for the fences with some late-inning guitar heroics, which fizzle out into some cool tremolo feedback upon completion. This gesture ends up signaling the end of virtually every track on the album. A full 35 seconds' worth of feedback at the end of 'RationalDestroyer' represents the record's postscript. This sonic signature appears most intriguingly in the swirling reverse-delay hum which wraps up the gliding guitars and drumroll workouts of 'I Count'. The fantastic tonal shifts throughout Security's fourth track more than make up for the recurring, unfortunate “every breath you take / every step you make” couplet in its refrain.
We've already invoked summertime laziness once in reference to this hardworking trio, and at the risk of lazy music journalism, there are some inevitable RIYL allusions. Any attempt to avoid the wooly mammoth in the room, Dinosaur Jr., is thwarted by the second track, as wah-wah guitar traces its titular 'Crying Arc' around dusky melodies. The fragile vocal mumbles over mock-metal-mutes, contributing a certain Sebadoh flavor, here, for good measure. The pretty acoustic guitars and salsa march of 'Burst Day' showcase sugary singing and a seriously sophisticated sense of songcraft to Spill. The goofy grins and sunny skies of 'Human Disease' come straight out of a Pavement record, but they might not feature the neat sounds, those tom fills and astro-purrs, bubbling just beneath the surface of Security's seventh track.
Slack Tide dabble in stoner metal ('Worst Me'), and wild west rodeo metal ('RationalDestroyer'), but they do so firmly within the grunge-y shoegaze of their indie rock wheelhouse. The mysterious and ritualistic third track, 'Battle Drum', provides a chance to catch our breath after the powerful (199)1-(199)2 punch with which Security opens. The title is apt. The drums prove a particularly compelling voice, as they will again beneath the vocal polyphony of 'Fanactic Plexi Boy' one track later, via shuffling brushes and a staggering nocturnal gait. There are all makings of a perfect three-minute (anti-)pop song, until this soft porch music gives way to an anthemic explosion of loud guitars. Now we're into the coda, which would track nicely over the ending credits of a millenial coming-of-age drama, if you're into that sort of thing.
All wrong reserved, reads the sleeve's trademark. Without reservation, Slack Tide do it right. It's going to be really exciting to hear this band evolve even further beyond their obvious, if cherished, influences.