Slug Guts
Playin’ in Time with the Deadbeat
Sacred Bones

Surely if you’ve thumbed through the pages of Primitive Futures in the past two years, you know that we have become a champion for the wave of Australian slouch-punk that has slowly but surely laid waste upon our shores. It seems like I’ve seen more bands of this ilk successfully roll through town on their government’s dime than I’ve seen local acts try and salvage a crowd. Perhaps there’s a cosmic connection between Columbus and that continent (it would explain the Aussies’ adoration for the Cheater Slicks), but more often than not the music represents something altogether foreign to the ears of Ohio and beyond. This wave is characterized by loss and desperation, many times tarred in motley hues and drug-addled, almost always restless and relentless in its emotional fisticuffs. The first time I saw Slug Guts, they typified these qualities, though none of those chronic ills seemed to bring them down or hold them back. Before the end of the night everyone was in primal straits, convulsing to the group’s cathartic caterwaul. A cult had been born amidst that summer bummer.

What Slug Guts bring with their third album, Playin’ in Time with the Deadbeat, is something this fragmented sparring community has needed since the beginning: a definitive statement that unifies the dystopian struggle in which all of these bands seem to writhe, a figurehead for the rest of the world to fawn over, and a beacon, albeit one fueled with dung and garbage, to tunnel the lot out of the darkness. While that may sound like hyperbole, the record really does represent a monumental step, and it’s heard in the first strains. In the time since the release of Howlin’ Gang and the band’s introduction to those outside of Brisbane, Slug Guts have encountered real-life turmoil (from rehab to jail cells to mental hospitals) and all of those very visceral experiences show up on Deadbeat, displayed in a grand culmination of that misery; the only way to escape obviously is to scratch it out on tape. Most noticeable is the record’s increased fidelity. The sonic canvas scrawled upon is closer to a U2 album than anything coming from Australia in recent years. All of the trademark influences (Gun Club, Birthday Party, Feedtime) are still embedded in their DNA, but on Deadbeat, they are more closely tethere to the Scientists’ thrall and dramatic abandon. At nearly 45 minutes, Deadbeat is packed with an epic force, which makes it difficult to pull away. For the uninitiated, “Old Black Sweats” is a good place to begin the journey. It’s the requisite Slug Guts narcotic boogie, bathed in broad psychobilly surf riffs that seem to disintegrate into far off chasms. Imagine The Cramps in slow-mo and serious as a junkie’s morning after. Suddenly though, “Sucking Down” makes a severe turn towards actual composition, studied nuance, and strategic movements. Though their guttural bemoaning ensues, this becomes a moment when the ugly is framed in sincere melodies. Then it happens again on “Moving Heat,” where at the song’s center there’s a respite for the tension to coil, a bridge, if you will, wherein things get soft and a saxophone is sent to deliver a three-note soliloquy. Is it growing up or have they possessed this power all along? Or, as evidenced on “Adult Living,” are they actually gunning for a pop hit? That simply can’t be the case, as they’ve got an attitude too heavy to let them smile. For all of those sweeping, tuneful notes that make Deadbeat such a welcomed anomaly, they still survive using vicious howls, self-deprecation, and a trudging, palpitating heartbeat.
Kevin J. Elliott