Slug Guts/White Hex
Playing In Time With The Dead Beat/Heat
A two-for-one review featuring Slug Guts’ “atmospheric” third album and a new side project for guitarist Jimi Kritzler. Words by TIM SCOTT.
The Amish chain-gang looking cover image is the only thing remotely puritan about this album. It's a Slug Guts album. Their third, and it's full of the same deranged and degenerate post-punk that made last year's Howling Gang and 2009's Down on the Meat both critically acclaimed and divisive.
It comes off the back of a “particularly turbulent year” for the Brisbane band. “Particularly turbulent” being a euphemism for “completely fucking insane to the point where we came close to killing each other”. It was written and recorded while the band toured the US, Japan, and Australia; released a live album and numerous singles; and took trips to the mental hospital, jail, court, rehab and shit-box motels. One of them legally can't leave Queensland.
At the same time, it's quite obvious the band have grown both as songwriters and players. There’s still a heavy misanthropic vibe, only now it's carried off with more confidence. Of course, confidence is not something Slug Guts have ever lacked but it's surprising that of the negativity heaped on the band (especially in Australia), constant international touring and releases on Sacred Bones (The Men, Zola Jesus, Moon Duo) means they’re perhaps better known in the US and Europe than they are at home.
Album highlights are found at the midpoint with 'Order of Death' and 'Adult Living'. The former – a slowed-down funeral march with guitar and vocal delay with the repeated phrase, “This is what you want’/This is what you get” – creates a Morricone nightmare, while 'Adult Living' starts heavy on the saxophone (like early INXS fronted by Kim Salmon) before falling into more classic, sweaty palmed Slug Guts agitation. Singer JD's vocals range from shrieky howls to low-end warblings, particularly on 'Suckin Down' and the menacing organ-driven ‘Stranglin' You Too’, one of the best songs the band has written. Both appeared on a single released by Chicago label Hozac earlier this year.
In the past, references to feedtime and Venom P Stinger have been made and they are valid, but their dirge has become more atmospheric. Tracks such as 'Glory Holes' and the closing 'Do You Wanna' are as much Jeffrey Lee Pierce's Gun Club as they are crazy skronk.
White Hex is Slug Guts guitarist Jimi Kritzler stepping out with Tara Green for some bleak and sombre gothy post punk. The couple first got together in Brisbane before moving to Berlin where they recorded their debut album Heat. Released on Italian label AVANT the record is filled with Krtizler's atonal guitar and Green's downer vocal delivery that is both haunting and beautiful. Comparisons will be made to HTRK's Jonnine Standish, maybe because both records were made during a European winter; maybe because both singers have that nonchalant coolness.
'Ice Cold' is just that. You can almost see your breath as you sit in a cold Berlin apartment with the heating off; your hands shivering as you roll the last of your tobacco. The album's best track 'Nothing Comes' starts with stark drum machine before breaking into an amazing guitar line and Tara's worn vocals. Propulsive, hypnotic, bleak and beautiful.