The tag of ‘slack-metal’ that’s often attributed to Slowcoaches is a rather misleading one. While inevitably designed to be tongue-in-cheek, a reference to their formerly loose instrumental presence, their progressive tightening over time has seen them emerge in the current wave of more detailed UK punk that’s been blossoming uncontrollably over the last twelve months. It therefore puts the London trio in a bit of a tight spot, aiming to stand out with their debut album Nothing Gives, possibly the final example for the genre to throw out in 2016.
And to be fair, Nothing Gives does see Slowcoaches giving a decent stab at standing out. Compared to their contemporaries, the indie elements are put on the back burner in favour of the punk, meaning that there’s a meatier fizz to these songs than is usually found elsewhere. What’s more, there’s a deadpan quality to Heather Perkins’ vocals that sometimes wouldn’t be out of place on a darker ’80s synthpop track. Combined with the bolder instrumentation and lyrics spanning everything from break-ups to suffering from a drug-induced mental illness, there’s something a lot more visceral about Slowcoaches on tracks like We’re So Heavy that veers off to the left away from what indie-punk in 2016 has traditionally been seen as.
But therein lies the biggest problem, in that while Slowcoaches can be commended for shaking up an established formula, the execution could be a bit sharper. The raggedness displayed in the likes of Raw Dealings and Norms And Values is supposed to be there, but it strips away the precision and detail that this sound has thrived on, and Slowcoaches suffer as a result. As easily digestible as this album is (and in tracks like Ex Head where the melodies are brought right to the forefront, that’s incredibly easy indeed), some of that identifiable flair fades away, meaning that, especially towards the end, this album starts to blur together into one mass of rattling guitar lines and floating vocals. There feels like less of a need to fully dissect Nothing Gives in the same way that acts like Happy Accidents or Muncie Girls really demand it, that the majority of what this album has to offer can be garnered with a passive listen. And while Slowcoaches themselves have openly admitted to favouring a looseness to their music, to make it this overt screams of a band not operating at their full capacity.
Alright, maybe that’s a bit harsh, as Nothing Gives isn’t a bad album. Its lack of anything truly mindblowing is obvious, but it’s decent nonetheless. Slowcoaches may not be taking the punk world by storm here, but there’s at least a solid, workable core for something of tangible quality to be built around. Admittedly there isn’t much mileage to get from Nothing Gives, and it would’ve been more encouraging for Slowcoaches to deliver something a bit more holistically complete as their opening salvo, but for what it is, there’s a least a glimmer of something better to come further down the line.
For fans of: Sonic Youth, Honeyblood, Muncie Girls
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Nothing Gives’ by Slowcoaches is released on 2nd December on Leisure & District.