2018Slothrust w/ Mannequin Pussy
NovemberDoors 8:30, Show 9:30 - $12adv / $14
Slothrust is Wellbaum, Kyle Bann (bass), and Will Gorin (drums). The trio first staked out their unique strain of jazz- and blues-afflicted rock as students at Sarah Lawrence College. The band’s 2012 debut Feels Your Pain, and its successor 2014’s Of Course You Do, established the band as a breed apart, serving up deceptively clever epics that veer satisfyingly between incandescent riffing and pop hooks, winsome anxiety and powerful heft.
“People have always had trouble comparing us to other bands, but someone recently described us as Nirvana meets Wynton Marsalis, and I loved that,” says Wellbaum. Even the band’s name inspires a beat of thoughtful consideration as the eyes take in the letters and the brain makes its snap judgement: Slo Thrust? Slot Rust? Slo Trust? Sloth-Rust.
We all studied jazz and blues, so I often use chords and voicings that aren’t quite as conventional for contemporary rock,” she continues. “Certain harmonic movement can get stale, so I try to incorporate colorful notes to give it more depth. The improvisational spirit of blues music is also something we try to always keep with us, even in more composed playing. I am drawn to musicians a bit further outside of the rock tradition, such as John Fahey, Elizabeth Cotten, D'Angelo, and Portishead. Growing up I listened to a lot of R&B and classical music. And musicals."
While Everyone Else clearly shows Wellbaum fulfilling her early promise as a singer, it’s where she hits her stride as a lyricist: Pulling the listener under the surface to explore a submerged world brimming with exotic creatures. Water motifs abound, detailing oddly off-kilter observations about floating, submerging and drowning that are anything but morose. Instead, they contort and reflect worldly truths about life on dry land.
Nowhere is this vision clearer than on the slow burn of the album’s centerpiece track “Horseshoe Crab.” Here, with storm cloud riffs and Will Gorin and Kyle Bann’s perfectly calibrated rhythmic undercurrent, Slothrust’s erupts in a geyser of emotional and spatial distance, as Wellbaum observes, “I don’t have anything in common with myself, except that I came from the sea, like everyone else did.”
“Like a Child Hiding Behind Your Tombstone" opens like some bizzarro world lullaby dispensing sage advice: “Drink seltzer, smoke weed when you can’t sleep. Think about shooting birds, everyone has got a violent streak.” Then, as the guitars explode, the rhythm section dials into stylish, disciplined groove to set up an expansive instrumental break that gently floats to a close with Wellbaum, at peace: “Hold me under the water. My lungs are filling with plankton. But the lake is not lonely. No need for you to come with me.”
Above all the overriding ethos of Everyone Else is its sense of inclusiveness: all people, every feeling, quiet, loud, any time signature. With a snap of the neck the band launches into the hyper-adrenalized “Rotten Pumpkin” with Wellbaum singing in a rapid-fire vomit burst, “I’ll make you sick because I’m soft water. Reach inside of me, and scoop out my seeds.” This midpoint between grunge and art rock is the aesthetic Slothrust elevates: sharp-eyed individualism, serious musicianship, humble intelligence, controlled abandon.
“Romantic is less about the gooey stuff and more about everything that surrounds love — the triumphs, the failures and how we transform from the mess of it all. Mostly, it's just a reminder to love someone.” - NPR
“Some of the smartest and most economically-constructed punk music to come out in a long while.” - Stereogum
“Take cover: This band doesn’t miss.” – A.V. Club
There are certain ineffable qualities to being a punk band that exists meaningfully. In the most simplistic terms, within the music there must be some sort of art practice, something communicative. Even in its most barebones brashness, precise construction goes a long way. This has never been a problem for Philadelphia’s Mannequin Pussy. With two full-length albums, 2014’s G.P. and 2016’s Romantic, inspiring critical acclaim from places like Pitchfork, NPR, Stereogum, the A.V. Club and more, it’s something impossible to describe and impossibly easy to notice. “Being in a punk band where you don’t want to take yourself too seriously while trying to aggressively make art through your music,” frontwoman Marisa Dabice explains of the band’s objective, “I think people sometimes expect kitschy-ness and I don’t want to do that.” There’s no danger of it.
Mannequin Pussy began as a duo between childhood best friends Dabice and guitarist Thanasi Paul. The pair wrote together, eventually feeling pressure to record a collection of songs. They did, and the bulk of Dabice’s first ever original material became their debut release, G.P. The demos showed immediate promise: Dabice’s idiosyncratic guitar playing of someone rediscovering their musical edge and Paul’s instrumental mobility. G.P. is a hopeful sort of scrappy experiment—but one that wouldn’t fully realize Mannequin Pussy until the duo met their creative collaborators in bassist Colins “Bear” Regisford and drummer Kaleen Reading.
Now a quartet, the band’s sophomore LP, Romantic, embodies Mannequin Pussy’s greatness: 20-minutes of hungry, genre-defying eclecticism that no longer feels like a collection of tracks but a record of real, discernible cohesion. Romantic kicks off with its title track, Dabice whisper-singing intimate vignettes of loneliness before exploding into trash-punk realizations—it’s hard to miss the mark when she offers the eyebrow-furrowing scream “I’m in hell.” It proceeds “Emotional High,” the most loving track on the record—a punk-pop anthem that removes itself from the transparent toxicity of some of the album’s other themes, or the progressive politicism of a song like “Pledge,” which offers the listener a new pledge of allegiance, one to themselves and no one else.
At their heart, Mannequin Pussy is a band that mosaics, taking unlike parts and making something new and whole from it’s unique pieces. It’s the direct result an artistic marriage between it’s four members, helmed by Dabice’s no non-sense, vulnerable and strong worldview. “What we hope for when people experience our music is a cathartic release, to not feel so alone in the emotions that most of us have, to maybe see the way other people experience theirs,” she says of the band’s aspirations. “Above all, the hope is that someone can listen to this album, feel connected to it on a personal level and have it set them free from all the toxic feelings that we hold on to.” It’s evident that they will, and do.