The debut release from the Portland, OR-based Slang has been a long time coming as Drew Grow and Janet Weiss formed the outfit over a decade ago and now deliver their first studio offering, Cockroach In A Ghost Town.
Grow (guitar, vocals) and Weiss (drum, keys, vocals) form the foundation, crafting a quirky nine-song offering that never sits still, shifting styles and substance throughout with support from Sam Coomes and Kathy Foster on bass, Anita Lee Elliot on guitar, vocals, and some other friends pitching in. Opener “Wilder” sets an eerie tone using cavernous drumbeats, soaring vocals, and a touch of gothic grandiose as percussion and keyboards float throughout.
The buzzy off-kilter pop of “King Gunn” brings in a Breeders feel as the band expands or constricts sounds around Grow’s desperate vocals and guest Mary Timony’s (Ex Hex, Wild Flag) lead guitar. Both “Hit The City” and “In Hot Water” amp up the swirling sounds and synths around the big drums with Weiss rocking heavy, while spacey “ooh and ahh’s” cascade out around a boom-bap drum beat as “Time Bomb” shimmers in David Bowie-like retro-glam style.
Slang slings frantic nervous energy throughout Cockroach In A Ghost Town, most notably in the acoustic/electric crackling of the schizophrenic “Wrong Wrong Wrong” and the tightly wound pulsing hum of “Chipped Tooth”. This type of caffeinated (or worse) mental convulsing is both alluring and off-putting, just the way the band planned it, toying with emotions, and never leaving the listener comfortable in their own skin.
The band brings in odd electro-warbling keys, big grooves, and a theatrical flair as the solid record closes with two tracks that recall a Flaming Lips-like sound. The title effort soars around Grows refrain of “I Have Dreams About The Ending/But I Don’t Dream About The End” while the album finishes with its most catchy track, “My #1” quivering and setting sail with blissful melody via lead vocals from Weiss and fuzzy guitar riffs from Stephen Malkmus (Pavement).
A generation ago this would be called alternative, but now, an alternative to what? Slang’s debut Cockroach In A Ghost Town is an oddball slice of rock that twists with the frantic questioning of a world spinning out of control, all the while worming its way into your ears.