Every couple of years our ears are gifted a great offering from Slothrust. Their third album, The Pact, comes out this Friday. It’s just one month short of the two year mark since their fantastic Everyone Else. During the gap they toured relentlessly, including a few shows here in Chicago. It also appears that they may have taken a look at their output and decided to change things up a bit.
Right away on “Double Down” you can tell they’re trying new things and getting out of their comfort zone. It sounds a lot more mainstream and radio-friendly. It’s almost like a mashup of Queens Of The Stone Age and Peter, Bjorn, & John. This is the first of many different grooves the band tries out over the course of 12 songs. Each is done well, and they fit together on the album surprisingly well.
“Planetarium” finds them back in their old wheelhouse, with grungy Ramones-style punk rock. The guitar solo by Leah Wellbaum is one of the best I’ve heard on a record this year. Plus Kyle Bann gets in some nasty bass licks.
The heaviness of “Planetarium” creates a great contrast with the following song, “Walk Away.” The tempo slows by 75 percent and the focus moves from the guitar to Wellbaum’s vocals. For the first time I can think of on any of their records, she’s really putting her voice out in front and letting it do the heavy lifting. We’re treated to another great guitar solo that lurks just under the top layer.
The band released four singles ahead of the album release, and they all appear in the first five songs. “Birthday Cake” came out about a month ago and provides the album title in the lyrics: “If you want to we can make a pact, but it is just an act it doesn’t mean anything”
Further down the track listing we get “Fever Doggs,” which I don’t believe was inspired by the Stillwater song “Fever Dog” from the film Almost Famous. Instead it’s a song about a toxic relationship featuring two self-loathing partners. The song ends in a repetition that becomes exhausting, mirroring the feeling of a bad relationship that features the same fights and feelings over and over again.
The final quarter of The Pact keeps things downtempo for the most part. Will Gorin’s drumming on “Some Kind Of Cowgirl” is some kind of wonderful. The whole thing wraps up to reveal Wellbaum in a more vulnerable light than the previous albums, which I think is something that was not necessary but very welcome.
Slothrust put out an EP of cover songs last year, and this album shows the band wearing those influences on their sleeve more than ever. If you’ve never heard the band this will be a nice way to ease in before checking out their other albums. If you’re a long-time fan like me, you’ll be pleased to hear them add some unexpected sounds to their already heavily-equipped arsenal.