Rapid Fire Reviews: Childish Gambino, The Menzingers, Slothrust
Posted: by The Editor
Childish Gambino– “Me and Your Mama,” “Redbone”
Childish Gambino is back with his first offerings from his upcoming LP Awaken, My Love, which is the follow-up to his 2013 record Because the Internet that saw him departing from the bar-driven hip-hop of his debut. On the two tracks released thus far, “Me and Your Mama” and “Redbone,” the California native appears to be reinventing his sound once again, as there’s no rapping to be found on either of the six-minute doses of progressive R&B.
“Me and Your Mama” avoids the verse-chorus-verse formula by instead consisting of three movements—the first being a deep, west-coast trap instrumental that Gambino could theoretically dominate with the aggressive delivery that gained him notoriety. Instead, he lets the beat play out until it suddenly cracks into a hurricane of rolling drums, sharp, distorted guitars and soaring, gospel back-up vocals. At the center is Gambino’s untamed howl, wailing like we’ve never heard him before, and invoking the spirit of his forefathers, James Brown, Howlin’ Wolf and Little Richard. “Can’t stand it, backhanded / they wanna see us fallin’ apart / you know that I love you / so let me into your heart,” he belts, reaching a piercing falsetto and unleashing a primitive shriek.
“Redbone” is far more mellow, working with a tight groove and a funky bassline that refrains from erupting. Gambino’s voice is more restrained on this track, but it’s still settled into that upper register that takes on a 70s funk/R&B feel that’s unlike anything he’s ever produced before. The last third of the track features a sexy synth arpeggio that slices through the beat, again evoking the sounds of Isaac Hayes or Parliament. If these two songs are any indication of where the rest of the project is headed, we might have yet another strong contender for AOTY.
The Menzingers– “Bad Catholics”
“Bad Catholics,” the second single from the beloved Philadelphia punks’ forthcoming record After the Party, is basically a continuation of the sound the band crafted on their previous two records. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just The Menzingers doing what they do best: pairing wordy verses with hooky, though gruff, punk choruses, all wrapped in an enchantingly sincere sense of wistfulness.
The glaring main riff that jumps forward right as the track begins is poppier and cleaner than anything off of 2014’s Rented World, which was a bit off-putting at first. Once the instantly recognizable vocals enter though, there’s no doubting this is a Menzingers song. The chorus is a jam, as the grungy guitars and gravelly voices of singers Tom May and Greg Barnett produce enough weight to warrant such a catchy sing-a-long as, “Bad Catholics, weren’t we darling / always dipping out before communion started.”
The lyrics aren’t the most profound they’ve ever penned, but their signature nostalgia is there and it’s a fun story to listen along with. This song works fine as a single and will surely be a nice addition to the band’s live arsenal. However, hopefully the record contains songs with more complicated arrangements, such as Rented World cuts like “Transient Love” and “Where Your Heartache Exists.” Also, the heaviness of the riff in “In Remission” needs to make a return. Not to worry though, The Menzingers aren’t ones to disappoint.
Slothrust– ‘Everyone Else’
There really is no point in attempting to pigeonhole the Brooklyn-based trio Slothrust into any one genre, and they make that very clear on their sophomore LP Everyone Else. The record starts off with a rip-roaring, pscyh-rock instrumental that could easily pass for Thee Oh Sees or Ty Segall. The next track, “Like a Child Hiding Behind Your Tombstone,” diverts from that immediately, beginning with doughy, clean guitar strumming and frontwoman Leah Wellbaum’s lilting, Frankie Cosmos-esque singing. It slowly expands into a mid-paced rock song, laden with acute, soothing fretwork that reminisces A Great Big Pile of Leaves, and then abruptly cuts into a shredding, psych-rock guitar solo.
This is sort of the formula for what ensues thereafter, but there’s no use in trying to predict what the band will do next. A song like “Pseudo Culture” dips and dives, eventually opening up into a sprawling guitar solo. The band are extremely talented performers, but they’re equally talented at composing. “Horseshoe Crab” builds effortlessly into pounding indie rock in the way that an early Modest Mouse song would, though it starts off quiet and unassuming. Many of the songs are windy like a Built to Spill song, but are played with a sense of foreboding urgency—as they can quickly become dark and heavy.
At times the sequencing can seem a bit jumbled since there are so many ideas and styles on here that the band experiments with. However, the wonkiness of pasting a blues rock jam into the middle of a song that’s otherwise akin to the Screaming Females is what makes this record stand out. Slothrust don’t appear to have any interest in conforming to one crowd or fitting into any particular scene—in turn giving them the opportunity to carve a niche audience of their own. Everyone Else is one of the year’s most intriguing records. Don’t sleep on this.
Eli Enis | @eli_enis