The Slats
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The Slats


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The best kept secret in music


"Pick it Up--NEOFUTUR"

The Slats – Pick It Up / 2004 Latest Flame Records / 15 Tracks / / / Reviewed 25 September 2004

New-rock in the form of The Strokes and The Hives that does not use clichéd guitar lines and arrangements lifted off the Rolling Stones to maintain relevancy, The Slats seem honest and hard working. They are able to create compelling, well-arranged and well-mastered tracks that do not seem insincere in the least. For example, “The Diabetic Coma” simultaneously mixes The Ramones and Weezer, allowing for a seamless move through genres. This experimental nature only bodes well for the act, as each part of The Slats are masters of their own realms, with great instrumental radio-play and a flair for pop that manifests itself in songs the will not be forgotten easily. Mixing in radio-ready tracks with impressive instrumental tracks, The Slats continue to innovate and keep the album flowing. Even when a track is slow in tempo, such as “Ice Queen”, listeners can hang onto B Cox and Jon’s vocals, which both have the sugary sweetness of Rivers Cuomo and the primeval growl of early Iggy Pop.

The crunchy guitars of “Mouth Like A Shogun” seem more fitted for Lightning Bolt or The Locust than The Slats, and they make a miracle in incorporating a laid back Devo/Bob Marley-style of vocals that bob on top of the guitar fuzz. Completely switching gears for the follow-up track, “TEENA” comes back to the Weezer/60s pop wellspring that The Slats find themselves continually drawing from. “TEENA” is benefited by the dynamic that the silky vocals have with the highly-distorted guitar laid down on the track. In the same way that Darlington and The Lillingtons are catchy in their flawless combination of The Ramones and those earlier pop-rock bands (and Buddy Holly) that the Ramones were influenced by, The Slats push together the Ramones, earlier music, and some of the shoegazer pseudo-emo that was famous in the early nineties.

The CD is above-average, in that the only impediments to complete cohesion are those aforementioned instrumental tracks, but even an off-beat track like “Hello Operator” can gain converts to its screeching guitar lines and constant repetition. I must say, in the same of time between the and this album, The Slats have really matured their sound, and seem ready for the big town. Their music will never be dated, as it is all based on tried-and-true musical powerhouses instead of indie flavors of the week, and their style of music would fit as well during the Smoking Popes as during Weezer, The Hives, or Modest Mouse.

Top Track: The War I Survived, Teena

Rating: 6.9/10
- NeoFutur.Com

"Pick it Up--SPLENDID"

The Slats' three core members resemble a line-up of suspects in a high-school shooting -- all thick-framed glasses and shaggy bowl-cuts. There's something exciting about a band that's geeky as fuck and not afraid to show it, especially in the current rock climate, where style often seems to rule over substance. With Pick It Up, The Slats show how good the results can be when the equation is corrected. Their intelligent lyrics, anthemic melodies and angular noise exercises prove that they deserve the dubious honour of being called "the best damn band to ever come out of Iowa".
The Slats' sound is firmly entrenched in the literate, angular pop of early nineties, golden-age indie rock and the bass-heavy grooves of early-'80s post-punk. The band seems to perfectly mesh these two disparate-but-connected styles, creating a sound that satisfies the current indie desire for danceable rhythms without sacrificing the melodiously abstract pop sensibilities of classic indie faves. It all adds up to a fitting soundtrack for today, and possibly the most relevant indie-rock to emerge all year.

Lead singer and main songwriter Brian Cox echoes classic indie heroes through both his vocal work and lyrical style. At various times his voice recalls the high-pitched serenity of Ira Kaplan ("TEENA"), the vocal gymnastics of Robert Pollard ("Automobile"), the breathy pronunciation of Thurston Moore ("The War I Survived"), and even the mod stylings of Elvis Costello and Tim Finn ("The Fabric Of My Brass Knuxxx"). Despite the vocal variety, Cox's contributions avoid mere imitation; his inventive, original lyrics ultimately dispel doubts about his ability to innovate.

Cox is an excellent lyricist. Functioning with the same detached emotion and fun-yet-cynical intellectualism that made Malkmus so appealing, he spits out abstract literary gems. Consider these: "Put your head down on my shoulder / I'm just a sabre-tooth cobra" ("Teena"); "There's a narcissistic animal strapped into my engine / His masticating mandible snapped under my will" ("Automobile"); "I caught you there red-handed making head with my friend on the bathroom floor of a discotheque / I checked the longitude, longitude, referenced it back to my attitude" ("The Fabric Of My Brass Knuxxx"). More than a few of these tracks will confound you, even as you're singing along to words you've never heard before. Bassist Jon Hansen also contributes some outstanding tracks, indicating that The Slats may have a Stephen Malkmus/Spiral Stairs songwriting relationship going. "I Believe Timothy McVeigh" paints the struggle between McVeigh and the US Government as an Oedipal relationship, replete with a catchy-as-fuck call and response chorus in which the band members yell, "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury (Get your rocks off! Get your rocks off!)". It's another solid hallmark of the band's songwriting ability.

"The War I Survived" is another impressive accomplishment. Opening with simply-strummed chords and Cox's laconic, Thurston Moore-like drawl, it eventually escalates into a pogoing rhythm and an unforgettable melody that carries it to its explosive conclusion. Cox engages in geeky, pseudo-gangsta posturing a la Rivers Cuomo, screaming "Slay another with the backbeat! Steal the motherfucker's heartbeat!", backed by the band's "doo-doo-doo". It's a clever, funny, memorable song that recalls classic indie acts like The Pixies, Pavement, Guided By Voices and Archers Of Loaf -- something that I and many other listeners have sorely missed.

There's really not a rum track here; from the art-punk explorations of "Another Physical Reaction" and "Mouth Like A Shogun" to the anthemic pop of "TEENA" and "Automobile" to the more somber "Hello Operator" and "Ice Queen", The Slats do everything remarkably well. They've crafted a truly accomplished album that's intelligent, nerdy, arty, cynical, fun, derivative and original. At once representing the old school golden age and looking forward to contemporary dance-driven desires, Pick It Up is an indie-rock enthusiast's dream come true.

-- Rob Moran - Splendid E-Zine

"Pick it Up--Babysue"

The Slats play crazy, crazy, crazy rock and roll with a difference. Instead of hiding behind gimmicks and overdubs, this enigmatic trio instead prefers to play with stripped down confidence...and let the audience decide what to make of the reality of their sound. The band released their first album (The Great Plains of San Francisco) in 2002 and then began touring the U.S. Their driving intensity is counterbalanced nicely by a very slight amateurish feel that is most appealing. Instead of trying to make everything precise and perfect, The Slats leave their tunes raw and real with plenty of rough edges which add a great deal of personality to the proceedings. The band is at its best when they really go nuts. "Algorithms & Arithmetic" is wildly exciting because of the loose and unpredictable nature of the recording (the guitar playing on this one is absolutely insane). The Slats play garage rock like it ought to be played. Plenty of cool intriguing cuts here, including "Another Physical Reaction" and "The Rules Are There Are No Rules." (Rating: 5+)
- Babysue



CMJ TOP 200 (#138) SPRING 2004
STREAMING RADIO AT RADIO K (Univ Minnesota), and various other stations worldwide


Feeling a bit camera shy


PICK IT UP is the latest and greatest release from the emerging art-punk savants, the Slats.The energetic trio has been building momentum since it started touring the US in support of its critically acclaimed 2002 album, THE GREAT PLAINS OF SAN FRANCISCO (Tyros Label). Having graduated from home-recordings to the studio, the band's experimental indie-rock hasn't been stripped of any of its skronk. Rather, the Slats have boisterously made the studio their new home, and PICK IT UP (Latest Flame Records) is destined to launch these underground up-and-comers onto the national scene.

Original Slat Brian Cox (Vocals, guitar) has clearly found his song writing team with more recent Slat additions Jon Hansen (guitar, vocals) and Mark Tietjen (drums). The band is divided by distance with members in Minneapolis, MN and Iowa City, IA but the song writing process hasn't suffered. Instead, the result is a cache of songs, rich in pop sensibility, that turn on a dime into unexpected directions just when you think you have them figured out. Then, they trim off the fat, turn up the volume, and start throwing ideas at you as fast as you can take them.

This happens within single songs, such as "Teena", an irresistible pop song that drives ahead as melodically as any radio-hit by the cars...until the quirky guitar solo comes in like a burst of Sonic Youth noise. This juxtaposition of sweet and sour can be heard from song to song, as well. From the downright danceable "Physical Reaction" to the disturbingly anarchic "Mouth Like a Shogun", this album plays like an eclectic mix-tape that goes from The Beatles to Black Flag in the space of 3 minutes.
But the most consistent element of this album is the intelligence and intrigue of the lyrics. The imagistic wordplay of both Cox and Hansen can be as provocative as early Elvis Costello, especially in songs like "The War I Survived" and "I Believe Timothy McVeigh", though the stream-of-consciousness flow of words resists overtly political interpretation.

In "The Diabetic Coma", Hansen rants manically about hypoglycemic depression: "I'm as serious as a maladaptive pancreas/ you need a need a needle to regulate this." Even when addressing tried and true rock 'n' roll subject matter (e.g. relationships, cars, revenge...) the Slats don't rehash tired metaphors or trite positions. In "Teena", Cox exhorts the ostensible object of his desire to "put your head down on my shoulder/ I'm just a saber-toothed cobra."

Like any good rock band, the Slats should be seen live, where their manic stage presence brings the schizophrenic nature of these songs to life. The Slats will be leaving their homes in Minneapolis, MN and Iowa City, IA to be on tour over the next year, making more fans with each set of songs they tear through.