By Samuel Peirce
Artist: Naked Giants
Release Date: March 30, 2018
Label: New West
Seattle, Washington’s Naked Giants brand of psychedelia-drenched, punk-rock n’ roll has yielded them some impressive releases so far (2016’s R.I.P. EP), and even more impressive live shows. The trio’s blend of reverberated guitars and screaming vocals is nothing new; they clearly take a page from psych rockers like Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, JEFF the Brotherhood and others of their ilk who, in turn, all took more than a page from ‘60s garage rock. SLUFF is more of the same, but unless you’re completely jaded, there’s something to enjoy here. The group’s first full length is a dose of youthful, electrified pop that’s brimful of spunk.
“Dead Alien” is the first track on the album. Naturally, the song opens with the crackle of static fuzz. A plodding bassline comes in shortly before a caterwauling guitar cuts through. This mid-tempo segment quickly picks up the pace and begins its rise into a faster, punky riff. “I can make this song if I want to” enters alongside the steady bass and a syncopated drum beat like that of the Dead Kennedy’s “California Über Alles.” An interlude with a cool ascending and descending solo plays smoothly between verses, and right away the Giants show off their shredding capabilities.
And boy, oh boy, can these guys shred. If modern rock of this caliber has become prone to effects over musicianship, then it’s certainly not the case here. Guitarists Grant Mullen and Gianni Aiello don’t pull any punches with their playing, and it shows. This fancy finger work gives way to the occasional mid-song jam session. “TV” begins with a simple guitar riff that just screams The Kinks, but the song eventually becomes a minute-long breakdown with a dazzling guitar solo. It’s the kind of showboating you’d expect to hear from dinosaurs like Led Zeppelin, and if you’re not careful, it just might melt your face off.
Still, other songs veer more towards pop. “We’re Alone” has a guitar hook and a singable chorus. “Goldfish II” has verses with the catchiness of a Franz Ferdinand song. “Everybody Thinks They Know (But No One Really Knows)” and title-track “Sluff” have somewhat of a pop-punk feel, especially the latter with it’s grimy guitar, steady Pixies-esque bassline, and “ooh-oohs” in the chorus. It could pass for a JEFF the Brotherhood song with its melody and overall sound. “Slide” has a frantic energy to it with a chorus a la Wavves and some angular guitar playing sporadically at times. The term “grunge” has been thrown around to describe Naked Giant’s music, and while I don’t completely agree with that, the particular rhythm of “Slide” bears somewhat of a resemblance to the chord progression and rhythm of Nirvana’s “Breed.” “Slow Dance II” has the stylings of your standard ‘50s doo-wop, but with a powerful, yelling chorus. The style is quite befitting to the lyrics, which seem to be about mending a torn relationship (“And I told you baby / I’m tired of lying to you.”) This song is my personal favorite.
“Shredded Again” is the final track, and it really makes the most of it. It’s a seven minute long anthem about being strung out or, “shredded”, in this case. Unlike the rest of the tracks on SLUFF, this song is an acoustic one, and it never takes any drastic turns in tempo or intensity. It’s a continuous folk sing-a-long with the chorus (“I think I’m shredded now / I think I’m shredded again”) being sung in unison by the whole band. It being as long as it is and also being such a departure from the rest of the album makes for a nice closer.
Naked Giants may be carrying the torch of raucous psychedelic freak-punk, but they have enough originality and various influences to keep them from being just another Ty Segall clone. SLUFF is mostly an exciting, hearty romp of an album that showcases a band that really knows how to rock. And to shred.