The title to California trio Slowcoach’s debut New Strategies Are Necessary, This Is Not Solid Ground sounds like it’s meant to be a warning post, a sign indicating that the music included inside will be shifting all over the map. Well, Slowcoach’s album does switch styles, but not in the wildly diverse way suggested by the title. Slowcoach plays two styles of music: quiet and loud. The loud side is the kind of noisy, shifting rock found on parts of Archers of Loaf and Modest Mouse albums. The quiet side, showing up every third track or so, is a kind of quiet, ambient instrumental music, still featuring the basic rock instrumentation (guitars, bass, drums) but also stressing keyboards. The loud side takes up 3/4 of the album, and the quiet side the rest.
Neither the quiet or the loud Slowcoach songs strike me as especially groundbreaking or new. For me the shifting the title refers to is mostly between songs I tolerate, songs I skip and songs that have some parts that are interesting or fun. Most of the songs fit into the loud, rough rock category, with grinding guitars and whiny, purposely ragged vocals. The lyrics that I understand aren’t especially interesting, and most of the songs run together without making much of an impression, except for a few more melodic moments, like on the anthemic “We Don’t Know” and “Bottle Captain.” The latter two songs at least sound like good music to blare in your car and pump your fist to, even if you won’t remember much about the songs afterwards. The quieter side of Slowcoach’s personality is slow and sometimes pretty, but still mostly easy to forget about, especially on tracks like the album closer “Sunday Evening in the Park,” which is like listening to a whining tea kettle for a few minutes: not necessarily annoying, but not exactly fun, either.
For the most part the rock songs sound like a bunch of guys getting together to rock, and the quiet songs sound like a bunch of guys getting together to make quiet mood music. In both cases, Slowcoach come off not as songwriters or experimenters but as a bunch of guys hanging out and fooling around, with varying results. That gives their music a relaxed, loose quality which at times is appealing, but doesnt encourage me to hit the repeat button very often. With young bands who obviously care about what they’re playing, I have an extreme hesitation to be too dismissive or critical. Still, this music floats past me with little effect.