[28 September 2003]
I hate to be one of those people who laments the current state of the musical world, because the fact is that there are plenty of great bands working out there making some great music, even a few with some mainstream success. On the other hand, the industry has developed such a narrow focus that whole genres and categories of sound have become difficult to find for all but the most diligently obsessed. I, for one, miss the days when I could turn on the radio or the television and have the off-hand chance of catching an indie pop band like the Smiths or Aztec Camera, but that style of music has been deemed demographically unmarketable, so tough luck.
Thankfully, I have this gig, and the opportunity to come across bands like Slipslide, a London indie pop act that melds influences such as Aztec Camera and the Go-Betweens into a melodically breezy sound that has hints of Merseybeat, touches of twee delicacy, and even some faint hints of electronic hooks and details. It’s certainly not a unique sound, and there are still plenty of bands trying to plug into the same vein as Belle and Sebastien scrambling about on the fringes, but in this day and age it’s a sound that is just damned refreshing.
The World Can Wait is everything you want an act like Slipslide to produce. The group first gained notice with the release of a single, the jangle-friendly “Sleeptalk”, over a year ago, and appropriately their debut album opens with that track. The song (re-) introduces the listener to Graeme Elston’s breathy voice and songwriting talents, backed by a jangly acoustic rhythm and twangy lead guitar. Combined with the backgrounded organ strains, the song has a slightly alt-country feel, but still remains in the realm of sweet pop. But the immediately following track, “Back to Work”, shows that the band isn’t content to remain in watery faux-country territory. Penned and sung by recently added guitarist Matthew Hayes, “Back to Work” is one of the moments in which Slipslide come close to touching on the precariously ridiculous of the Smiths. Hayes’s voice is a delicious croon (yes, like Mozza, but less syrupy), and the song sounds like it could be wistful love song, but is actually a paean to employment, with lines like “When I first left I found it hard to carry on but thought I’d learned / I fooled myself and as the time went by I found my thoughts would turn / Back to work” giving the song a wry humor.
Elston is no slouch when it comes to mixing humor into his sentimentality, as songs like “Baked Alaska” and “X Supplies the Answer”, which both take their somewhat maudlin themes and express them with a knowing smile. The majority of Slipslide’s work, however, is both sentimental and earnest, a combination of traits that seems to mark a band as being the exclusive domain of mopey, overly intellectual geeks, and if that’s the company I’m in, then fine, because this music suits me just fine.
If there’s a complaint to be made about Slipslide, it might be the rather evenly distributed saccharine moments. Decidedly sweet, The World Can Wait doesn’t ever really break out and go for the gut the way bands like the Smiths did with songs like “How Soon Is Now?”. In fact, if there’s such thing as a song being both hushed and anthemic, then Slipslide seems to have found it in “Signs of Life”, which is calmly epic, like the Charlatans through a post-nap haze. But it’s a great song, and if the band never really surges forward for some straight rock, then at least it manages to avoid being a singularly soft jangle for the whole album. Understated canned beats give flavor to a few of the tracks, and the pendulum swings between Aztec Camera fey-ness to sounds familiar to the Judybats’ American South indie pop, hitting some decidedly Britpop moments in between.
This is what soft rock should mean, not the pabulum of discarded, light adult contemporary hits. These songs are breezy, soft, and warm. In short, lovely. But they also manage an intelligence and attention to melody and harmony that gives credit to the long history of crooning indie pop. If you’re like me, and are a part of the demographic that has been squeezed out by target marketing, then you’re probably used to having to actively search for new music to enjoy. If so, then go ahead and take the trouble of seeking out The World Can Wait, because Slipslide is waiting for you.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/slipslide-world/