Heavy Machinery EP
There aren’t many ways for a band to write songs which sound unmistakably similar to the work of another group without sounding derivative. The only way that it’s possible to walk such a narrow and treacherous line is to be completely ignorant of it; the band in question just has to bull their way in and boldly be themselves – any similarity that the group may bear to anyone else is purely coincidental. Such is the line that SLIP-ons walk on their Heavy Machinery EP; on first listen, that there’s a similarity between SLIP-ons and Husker Du (or Sugar, or any/all of the bands with whom Bob Mould is associated) is the open gateway that will cause listeners of the right mind to find their way in. The sensations are good and right and are just guaranteed to massage the right muscles for the right listeners.
SLIP-ons waste no time as they try to win “just the right fans” when needle catches groove on the A-side of Heavy Machinery. Right away, the dense guitar tones of singer/guitarist Brock Pytel and guitarist Rob Matharu set up a great backdrop with Shane Wilson’s tight, muscular drumming providing an excellent frame to house them. Right away, “Heavy Machinery” charges forth as Matharu romanticizes moments of simple pleasures (“Last Friday night you met me/ And we walked to Grandview Park/ Drinkin’ Dat juice/ On a tree stump after dark”) that anyone can relate with and so are capable of charming anyone who hears them – but the going only gets betteras the song finds a fantastic tension through the bridge and solo break before finally crashing to a close. By the time the song does wrap up, listeners will be well and truly won; the power and the drama are both as hypnotic as similar turns were through Husker Du’s best moments, and these prove to hook just as well as those once did.
After the precedent has been set by “Heavy Machinery,” SLIP-ons just keep pressing their advantage with “Soldier Don’t Say Goodbye” – which manages to strike gold with a sound that’s similar to its predecessor and focusses on the hard feelings found at the end of a summer well spent and not at all on the wholly unfashionable theme about fighting an armed conflict, as the song’s title implies. Throughout “…Don’t Say Goodbye,” listeners will have to actively fight the urge to just close their eyes and bob their heads in appreciation of the song and they’ll only want to open their eyes when the song ends – the song is really just that sublime a rocker but, somehow, the going only gets better when “…Don’t Say Goodbye” closes out and makes way for the side’s closer, “Nothing Is Good Enough.” Rather than shifting gears to offer some variety of movement through the side, what listeners get is an energetic indictment of the girl who broke the singer’s heart and left him to try and find life without her – set to the kind of power pop composition that most bands hold dearly and crow that they composed for the duration of their career after they’ve introduced it to fans on stage. Right off, listeners will know that all is not well as Pytel immediately begins laying in with the accusations (see, “You spike my guns, you tie my hands, take the wind out of my sails/ You cut me down a peg or two, you dig the ground from underneath me, the wrench in my machine, you sabotage until I fail”) and, in doing so, basically abandons the concept of meter which elevates the levels of urgency about the song until the singer finally unleashes the title lyric and completely decimates its intended target. In that, “Nothing Is Good Enough” proves to be the kind of punctuation that the A-side of Heavy Machinery really needed in that it is rock solid and doesn’t rest; by the end, the guitars laid down by Pytel and Matharu are howling just as hard as Pytel’s voice is as he delivers the title lyric a couple more times with a sense of disdain in his voice that is palpable and then the band just crushes both the song and the side to a close. After the needle lifts from the A-side, listeners will be rushing to their turntables to begin the B-side of the EP as quickly as possible in hopes that the energy level won’t have a chance to lapse; the A-side of the Heavy Machinery Epis just less than fifteen minutes long, but the songs are so good that they set their hooks into listeners deeply.
As high as the energy levels were on the A-side of the Heavy Machinery EP when “Nothing Is Good Enough” closed it, SLIP-ons somehow manage to start the B-side at an even high level. “Mosquito” opens the B-side with a fury of speedy rhythm guitar parts from both Matharu and Pytel and set listeners’ heads buzzing – just like the insects with which the song shares a name. Listeners will find that, throughout the song, they won’t be able to let go of the very real melodic hooks that Pytel has installed; they’ll marvel at the very adventurous sustains throughout the singer’s presentation, and discover (again) that the quality and refinement of the band’s songwriting chops far exceeds their years. Likewise, the band manages to unload a surprisingly memorable guitar solo before they let the song go but, when they do, listeners will find themselves reaching for more reflexively; while no song in this running could be called weak or poor, “Mosquito” establishes a new standard for the band to live up to even though it’s the shortest song on the EP.
…And finally, after the SLIP-ons have already pounded and wowed listeners harder than anyone could possibly have expected with just four songs, SLIP-ons manage to find a way to close out this running with “Undivided” – a song which lets the band ease back on the throttle a little, but doesn’t let listeners down. While the song does grind to an open a little awkwardly at first, Matharu and Pytel don’t let it languish as they assemble lush guitar parts while Pytel tries to decide, “who was wrong and who was right” as he and his girl drift ever-further part, in spite of not wanting to let her go. Strictly from a lyrical standpoint, “Undivided” would be absolutely heart-wrenching in the wrong hands, but the band manages to employ so much college rock power that “Undivided” ends leaving listeners feeling warmly fulfilled. It might seem unlikely, but it’s true.
After the needle lifts, those who have run front-to-back with the Heavy Machinery EP may feel themselves slump a little in the chair they were sitting in to listen. After it ends, listeners may notice to their surprise that the raucous energy which ran through each of the cuts on this EP managed to hold them up, somehow, and infuse its energy into them – but when it ends, that energy evaporates. Listeners will find that frustrating and immediately set the EP playing again (either side – it just needs to be playing) – and that’s both the great and horrible thing about the Heavy Machinery EP: it’s excellent, but it’s too damned short. SLIP-ons had better have more new music coming soon or they’ll have a lot to answer for. [Bill Adams]
The Heavy Machinery EP is out now both on vinyl and digitally on Scamindy Records. Buy it here, directly from SLIP-ons’ on their bandcamp page.