Album Review: Sløtface – Sorry For The Late Reply
‘Why be good enough /When you could be a success?’ yells Haley Shea at the outset of S.U.C.C.E.S.S., the opening track on her band’s second album, a spark that sets off a riot of pinballing percussion and guitar. Initially, that brazenly ambitious statement may seem off-kilter for Sløtface, rhetoric befitting a snake oil salesman rather than an openly progressive punk band. But the hyperactive instruments take on a different tone as Haley continues: ‘You better represent / Be the best damn immigrant’. Later, she asks ‘If you’re not crying, do you care enough?’ It’s a smart, calculated look at a world in which pressure to be more productive, happier, better than everyone on your friends list – or worse, an example for an entire group of people – can be absolutely crushing.
You see, few bands put the party back in political party like Sløtface. Their 2017 debut Try Not To Freak Out paired dancefloor-ready punk with sharp lyrics that took on such topics as the indie boys’ club and negative body image. Sorry For The Late Reply still kicks out the jams, but the band are older and, perhaps, a bit wiser now. As a result, these 11 songs feel more expansive and embrace all the confusion of growing up at 100 clicks-per-minute.
Lead single Telepathetic is a kindly pep talk to not sink into inertia while you’re ‘begging for something exciting to happen’, as Tor-Arne Vikingstad’s spiky guitar applies 1,000 volts of fuzz to the listener’s cerebellum. On the flipside, New Year, New Me is still kicking around the house in pyjamas. ‘Keep hoarding books I’ll never read / Making plans I’ll never keep,’ Haley croons over heavy-lidded bass and dreamy guitar, facing up to the ‘live your best life’ rhetoric with self-awareness. Such internal conflicts abound, while looking outside, as they do on Passport, reveals ‘This bigotry / That keeps flashing across our screens’.
Amid the confusion, Sink Or Swim is the album’s heart. What starts with relationships freezing over quickly widens in scope to include melting ice caps. Haley sings, ‘I keep seeing my grandchildren die / But I can’t seem to turn the lights off’. As the tide of echoing guitars and emotional turbulence swells around her, she concludes with a realisation: ‘It’s not politics, it’s sink or swim’.
Here, for Sløtface the personal is political, and individual conflicts are really shared struggles. It’s this core empathy – and a knack for writing tunes catchy on a pandemic scale – which makes the band so relatable. Arriving just at the right time for its message to feel truly resonant, Sorry For The Late Reply is a bold, brave, brilliant work.
Sløtface’s Haley Shea discusses the challenges of gender equality in music and why there’s still plenty of work to be done…
Jamie Lenman will be inviting special guests, sharing new music and also performing King Of Clubs in full during this month’s Separation Event.