Slowcoach – New Strategies are Necessary, This is Not Solid Ground

New Strategies are Necessary, This is Not Solid Ground

Gosh, do you remember the first time you heard Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted? I mean, honestly, can you think back that far? Remember how from the very first, perfect, fuzzy chord of “Summer Babe” you were hooked on lo-fi for life? It was so imperfect. Most groups searched for sonic perfection (Smashing Pumpkins anyone?), but Pavement seemed like they were drawing a picture with a marker whose tip had been bent and smashed. All of the lines were blurred, unclear, and it was, somehow, clever and beautiful. To be quick, Slowcoach is not Pavement. They do however, translate that superfuzz lo-fi vibe into the world of emo, a welcome step in a genre that is becoming cliche really fast.

Much like Slanted and Enchanted, Slowcoach’s debut album (that with the insanely annoying and pretentious title) grabs you with its fuzzy rumble. Slowcoach do not lyrically attempt the absurd yet brilliant stylings of Stephen Malkmus, but their album has that same distinct charm. The vocals are charmingly off-pitch (just slightly) and buried beneath the paper-thin distortion of the winding guitars. Most of the time, you cannot tell what Slowcoach is singing about (the unclear, single-panel liner notes sadly omit the lyrics), but its not just standard emo fare.

Slowcoach aspire to tell a story with their album, but its not just with the lyrics. An Eerie, keyboard-laced instrumental (such as “This Nation”) drones build quietly and prettily, before launching into emotional rockers like “Shackels & Bows.” In fact, most of the time, the lyrics don’t matter. It’s the way they’re sung. The singer (Robert Reich) sounds emotionally charged, and not just because he’s in an emo band (like so many singers in this flailing genre). Reich can be quiet and affecting, such as on “Black Tar” or charged and angry, such as on the aforementioned “Shackels & Bows.”

No matter what style Slowcoach leans towards, they remain unmistakably punk. The pretty melodies are scared by a breaking voice, distorted guitars and abrupt endings (the most melodic moments here come in bursts, such as “Ode to Rekha,” which clocks in at a bittersweet 1:45). When Slowcoach slow things down, they still remain distorted and fuzzy. The scant production on this album does it more good than anything. If these songs were done in a hyper-professional studio, they would lose most of their charm.

Despite the fact that many emo bands have turned the genre into a formula, groups like Slowcoach will bring hope and a tear to your eye. With groups like Slowcoach and Camden expanding the parameters of a sinking movement, there may be hope yet. Slowcoach reside on the relatively obscure Silver Girl records, so finding this album may be slightly tough. Slowcoach is, however, one of the year’s greatest surprises. So, I plead with you, if you are a fan of emo, of punk, perhaps of lo-fi, locate this band. Order them through the label, rummage through record shops from town to town, but locate this band. They are worth your time and attention. Slowcoach is one of those few bands that seems to have some sort of magic hovering around them. A perfect record? No, but perhaps it’s better that way.