Purge and Swell: 4 out of 5
Lost Decade: 3 out of 5
Label: VHF Records
Produced by: B. Nagit (mixed by)
There are a good handful+ of bands who’ve been mining their music for the same nigh-three decade span as Wingtip Sloat, both on the mainstream and DIY edges of the spectrum – Sloat, of course, being dedicatedly the latter the whole damn while. Often, things change during this time: edges round off, things become more predictable. If you’ve taken a hiatus and returned, that return will often sound notably “older” in comparison to youthier output: the artists are older, and their time away has given from the music pit has given them some different priorities and perspectives.
If your band started out playing more laid back fare, all the better – your joints don’t move as well now, you’re not as angry at society or as lovelorn anymore, so continuing in that laid back format suits you just fine.
And when you’re Wingtip Sloat, you manage to do that much more rare feat: you play the same inventive, scrappy, angry indie punk rock you did back way when. It’s maybe not surprising, as Sloat has popped up periodically to prove their capability at this, and the trio’s m.o. has been to ingest influences as they’ve come along and inform their sound – not meaning that they’re suddenly an electro band or anything, remaining wholly rooted to their lo-fi rock ethos, more that the group never made themselves beholden to any absolutely definable “sound,” giving them plenty of room to get more poppy or more rough-edged or more experimental as they please.
How this might shape up into albums is evidenced pretty well by VHF’s gathering of 2013 – 2016 recorded material into Purge and Swell – an LP of ten tracks – and Lost Decade – a CD bonus of 31 demos and covers.
The LP finds WS between the workmanship rock of Guided By Voices as translated into punk, and the slippery jangle of early Pavement: tracks always hit on a catchy riff like the former but have the willful playfulness of the latter, guaranteeing that every track is an incredibly fun mix of familiarity – you can nod along as soon as they settle into a groove – and surprise, when that groove suddenly veers into something more raw or weird. Pat Foster’s vocals are still as enthused and scrappy as ever, part of the magical formula that allows Sloat to sound rather timeless – they could still pass for greasy college rockers.
Part of the whole lo-fi, DIY thing, though, also seems to lend itself to keeping tracks limited to a 2.5 minute max runtime. That doesn’t equate to a lack of any of the aforementioned catchiness or creativity, but it does mean we sometimes cut out of a song that feels like it might still have some steam.
This is countered by the excess of material on Lost Decade. On the one hand, these can’t – again, by that DIY nature – be too far off of album material, and so we still get plenty of hooks and, essentially, full tracks. But there’s proof in the abundance that the 10 tracks of P&S were somewhat more handpicked to go and flow together, and there is both a bump in recorded quality, and the amount of tracks / layers employed in the former vs. the latter. Lost Decade sounds like what it is – a collection of raw songs. Very much worth listening to, and with some songs that stand out as bearing repeated plays, but much more of a background listen than the proper album, which is unignorably catchy and emotive.