The Slackers – Nobody’s Listening / Sleep Outside

A deeper look at the grooves pressed into The Slackers’ 12″ UV digitally printed vinyl single. Ignoring the, “Gee whiz!” quality of The Slackers’ new single [the “Nobody’s Listening 12” features music on one side and a graphic on the other –ed] as well as the talking point of, “Well, this is a new way of combining digital and analogue formats into one release,” (rather than being pressed, this release is UV digitally printed vinyl) it needs to be pointed out (and focused on, in this critic’s opinion) that the “Nobody’s
Listening” single contains the first new music from The Slackers since 2016. Granted, the cuts collected came from the band’s show at Ernesto’s in the Netherlands – which got edited and had overdubs applied after the fact at Stabby Road in Brooklyn and at singer Vic Ruggiero’s bunker in the Bronx – but new tunes are as good as gold in any language, for the devout. And to be perfectly fair, these two cuts do have quite a bit of promise about them.

While the sound quality leaves a little to be desired (the presentation is more than a little tinny, and David Hillgood’s sax sounds a little thin), there’s no question that the energy exuded by “Nobody’s Listening” is
very solid. There, the band plays to its retro-energetic strengths (horns, infectious rhythm and a spirit akin to that of Happy Days) and Ruggiero illustrates that, as gravelly as it is, his voice endures and he has definitely taken care of his instrument. In fact, his scruffy voice shows no significant sign of damage at all. The “Let’s just have fun” spirit about the lyrics (easy couplets about voices arguing, talking over each other, not seeing eye-to-eye and indulging one-sided conversations) feel fluffy and generally lacking in
content, but the band still manages to find an accessible vibe which can at least get heads bobbing as the song makes its way along.

Conversely, the second cut of the pair on the single, “Sleep Outside,” finds a far more stable skank in its step which can’t stop itself from being even more fun than its predecessor. There, lyrics like, “Back in the Eighties, everything was good/ I had the hope and a future like a young boy should/ Now it seems those dreams are over – gonna pay the price” feel far more complete and refined than those of its predecessor – to far more satisfying effect. Likewise the understated socio-political slant of the song feels timely – given the current state of affairs in the United States. That is not to say The Slackers go out of their way to batter listeners over the head with a message, just that the cut as a whole feels like a complete statement; it doesn’t seek to carry a proverbial sign, just simultaneously show fans where the band is at as well as entertain them.

…And, after the needle lifts, listeners will agree that, yes, The Slackers succeeded in their desire to subversively inform and entertain with this single. For the right ears, The Slackers have hit upon a point in pop music that not enough artists are touching upon; in this day and age, we need to dance as much as we need to fight for rights, and these songs speak well to both points. That said, if they’ve got anymore gold in a similar vein, the time might be right for another full-length Slackers album.

Bill Adams is Editor-in-Chief of Ground Control Mag.