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Right off the bat, the new album by Fort Wayne garage punk band Slug Love is hard-hitting and chunky and chugs along at a higher BPM. The first track on Underside, “Flying Discs,” has the type of riff that every band has ever played in a bar, but without the carbon copy feel to it. Its back-and-forth power chords launch Underside, and when the song lands, the underground heart of the record helps cushion the blow.
As it progresses on, the slower songs (though there are no real slow ones) and the more tender parts of the band’s songwriting offset all the super-sweet riffing and the old-school rock n’ roll that the band has become known for. The title track and “Swollen” are perfect examples of this with Alex DeNicolo’s yearning vocals paired with the band’s distorted leads and rock-heavy sound.
The album gets back into the bar-band territory on “Graveyard Walk” and even on “Home.” However, these songs’ redeeming qualities force you you take them seriously. “Graveyard” features somewhat subdued vocals which keep it in check, and on “Home” the main riff/anchor speeds the song along quick enough to stay away from repetitiveness. These more straightforward songs are buffered by the ones in between where the sentiments are sincere and the emotion is just as tight as the riffs. “Signs” combines these two styles with plenty of guitar solos, consistent melody, and guitar riffs.
“Knapsacks” is dirty and distorted and powers through with less singing and more riffage. The final song, “Repeat Mode,” is akin to “Knapsacks” in that it has a lot less singing and more back-and-forth guitar leads, but closes the album out just like the band would on stage. Overall, Underside feels like a Slug Love performance put down on tape. For a band that’s playing just about every weekend, that’s all you can hope for.
At first, some of the songs on Underside could sound like your dad and his buddies practicing in the garage. But the fact that Slug Love is comprised of members still in their 20s makes all the difference. The songs feel young yet rely on rock chops that seem decades old. Maybe when they’re middle-aged the songs will need a little push to be relevant again, but right now, they’re perfect.