Sløtface are a band defined by their ability to combine melody with ferocity, catchiness with antagonism. Spark. Electricity. They showed as much on their debut record, Try Not To Freak Out, an 11-song thrillride that managed to scream past you in half an hour or so, while still feeling substantial all the way through. On sophomore effort Sorry For The Late Reply, then, you could have forgiven the Norwegians if they’d stuck rigidly to a well-defined, tried and tested formula. For a lot of the record’s runtime that formula is still there: there are still bundles of energy wrapped up inside irresistible tunes, but it’s in the nuances, refinements, and developments in sound and subject-matter that we get a glimpse of a more adventurous, bolder, and braver band than we got last time round.
Opener ‘S.U.C.C.E.S.S.’ wastes no time in throwing us in at the deep end, with Haley Shea’s vocals tumbling through a tirade against the injustices of immigrants amidst a cacophony of raucous bass and drums and a hyper-active, whining guitar lick. ‘Telapathetic’, another single, follows suit, setting Shea’s wistful – if slightly tongue-in-cheek – lament of the struggle between personal idealism and inaction against a backdrop of fuzzed guitar and an infectious hook.
In a sense, Sløtface have always been about reconciling opposites, and the same is true here. At times, like on ‘Crying In Amsterdam’, Shea’s vocals are sickly-sweet and pop-soaked, set against the backdrop of distorted, manic guitar and propulsive percussion. Meanwhile, at others the band’s propensity and proficiency for an infectious hook comes to the fore, like in ‘Luminous’, with its gorgeous, muddy chord progression. Yet there’s something deeper here. While the skill with which musical styles and qualities are blended hasn’t diminished, it feels like there’s more substance – more heart – running through it all than on their debut record. On ‘Stuff’, for instance, Shea tells the tale of a break-up, and the memories it leaves behind in the form of the things left behind in her apartment. Meanwhile ‘Sink Or Swim’ features the very ominous observation that “It’s too warm for October” amidst an anxious contemplation of the state of our planet and the future generations that will have to inhabit it. It’s in these moments where we see the evolution the band has undergone in the last few years; the record is more anxious, more human, more heartfelt than before, and all the better for it.
In a way – and I mean this as a compliment – the most striking thing about Sorry For The Late Reply is how un-striking it can be. While Sløtface’s ability to tear into and devour songs is still as present as ever, it’s the quieter moments – perhaps the strongest example of which comes from a stripped-back, piano-lead reprise at the album’s close – that proves that the band has evolved. While they still have the ability to raise our hair and get our hearts pumping, the most impressive thing they do on Sorry For The Late Reply is make us think and feel more than ever before.
Sløtface’s Sorry For The Late Reply is available for stream and purchase 31 January via Propeller Records. For more info, including tour details, see their website.