I got an email the other day from a guy from Iceland named Geirharður Þorsteinsson.
You‘re probably thinking to yourself, who is Geirharður Þorsteinsson? Well, he just happens to be the guitar player from a band called Slugs that I wrote about back in December when I reviewed their recently released album Þorgeirsboli … which I liked so much that I even included it in my Best of 2013 list as one of my Top 5 favorite releases of the year. Geirharður appreciated the positive review, though unfortunately told me that Slugs recently broke up after playing their last show back in November. But… he was nice enough to pass along a digital copy of the band‘s first album Slugs, as well as a live recording from their last concert, which took place in the basement of Reykjavik‘s Bar 11, a tiny hallway-like venue that I can safely say is the last place I‘d ever want to find myself in the event of a fire, becuase when it‘s packed you would have exactly a zero percent chance of getting upstairs and to the exit. Burn baby burn.
Needless to say, I was pretty excited about getting a copy of the first Slugs album since I was such a big fan of Þorgeirsboli. Geirharður gave me a bit of info about the band‘s debut, released in 2008 after some back and forth with the printing company, which was a bit hesitant to ship it when the Icelandic economy crashed and the króna tanked. But the band persevered and got Slugs to the marketplace, albeit with mixed reviews including a snarky one in the English language Reykjavik Grapevine, which included the word “dilettante.” Dilettante? Really?
Geirharður too was a bit critical of Slugs, but frankly I have to take issue with any less than positive reviews, because I think Slugs is an impressive CD. The production is solid, with a clean sound and songs that, while unusual, still hold together, making it much more approachable than Þorgeirsboli, which is way out there. The band even put out a decent music video for the song “Mthrfckr,” their most poppy, radio friendly effort with its very post punk / new wave sound.
Slugs is kind of punk, kind of weird, kind of lo-fi, and sort of all over the place. At around 22 minutes across nine songs it’s somewhere between an EP and an album, but the quick bursts of music suit the band well, preventing the songs from going completely off the rails. It’s hard to describe their vibe, which vacillates between punk / post punk / and punk pop, sometimes changing within a song as it progresses. Singer Sindri Eldon (who is in fact the son of another famous Icelandic singer named Björk…) mixes up his vocal stylings, sometimes screaming, sometimes distorted, and every now and again getting down to some good old fashioned singing. Geirharður‘s guitar work is fuzzy and grungy, even when playing more pop-like riffs like those on “80,” and he can certainly speed it up to a frenetic buzzing when he needs to.
The first few times I listened to Slugs was at low to medium volume on a docking station, and while I liked what I heard it wasn’t until I listened on headphones that I really got into it. There’s a lot more depth to the sound that I previously thought (though I could admittedly do without the belching…) and a surprising amount of stuff that was only in one channel – finding the music in your left ear and the vocals in your right at times can be unsettling, and I suspect that’s the point.
“Mthrfckr” is absolutely the hit here, so I encourage you to check out the video using the link above. Mind you, I wouldn’t go so far as to say if you like “Mthrfckr” that you’ll like the album, because the band’s sound is hard to pin down, and liking Slugs certainly does not mean you’ll like Þorgeirsboli either, which is way the hell out there in a much more experimental and less conventional place. Geirharður agreed that a lot of people didn‘t get what Slugs was all about, but that‘s OK. They weren‘t for everyone, that‘s for sure. But if you try sometimes… you‘ll find… you get what you need…