It’s 1988. An unexpected blast and genius and fate brings The Fall and Michael Clarke, a dancer / choreographer, together for a ballet production. From this unforeseen union, this unholy matrimony, comes an album so compact and pleasurable in its unwavering mess, that it rides high in my favourites still now.
That album was ‘I Am Curious, Oranj’. I was 2 and too young to count that high. Now imagine it’s later, maybe 2019, and imagine ‘They Live’ has just been released, and that same giant leap to the left sought a band to soundtrack it’s satire and anti-commerce stance.
And imagine that band was Slumb Party. That same riddled mess of cacophonous bliss that brought us 2018’s ‘Happy Now’. But something has changed and re-moulded, something got sharper and snapped. ‘Spending Money’ retains the unpredictable clatter but refines it to scattergun pop. They’ve raised every jumble of sonics to ashes and pressed out a squeezed charcoal chunk. There is something on Slumb Party’s mind… And man, are they letting us know.
‘Go To Work’, ‘Salaryman’, ‘Time To Stop’ ‘Existence’… even the song titles tell you they’re pissed, and pissed off with one thing in particular. There’s debts and bad habits and things we don’t need and we can’t even cover those basics. Yes we all know it and no it’s not new, but it’s fresh for whoever might feel it. Who’d have guessed all those late 80’s dole queue frustrations would raise their warped faces again? Only this time we’re not even jobless.
‘Go To Work’ is the sequel to XTC‘s excellent post/proto punk single ‘Making Plans For Nigel’. But where Nigel’s future was in British Steel, ours is wired into headphones in outbound sales call centres or something as mundane and dull. “I can’t even / Make minimum wage / Why am I so poor / At this age?”, gets dressed up in rag-jagged sweet dated synth-keys, stab-racket rhythms and a ridicule tinge. As that question gets asked to the WP (I presume work and pensions?), the answer’s find work and keep working. “Can you buy me a pint / And I’ll pay you back” starts a midsection role of calamitous joy where it’s tough not to laugh with and feel. If it wasn’t for their finely tuned skit-cartoon take, we’d be struck by how low we can go.
‘Salaryman‘ shivers through easy aged synth sounds and glistens like ‘His’n’Hers‘ pre-breakout Pulp. Lead vocals express every forced wheeze of breath as we slowly applaud what we’re taught is success. “Seal the deal / Salary Man / Increase the heat / Reach for me / This is a nice time / This is a nice time” …It’s a fine line to walk between pity and jealousy, especially when stuck looking in.
‘Spending Money’s a direct X-Ray Spex resurrection with nail scratching sax yelps, twinned squeal mantra vocals, and a backing that rumbles club footed and bouncing. “Spending money like I can / Spending money like I can / I’m a success / I’m a success”, those lines act to sum up the thrust of the album; resenting the ‘us’ as a whole, recognising the problem and symptom.
‘Existence’ spills out like a Dadaist workout of unstructured, unplanned proposals. We start every line with ‘how do you like your….?‘ and we range from TV banality to work life to eggs, and everything in between’s covered. It’s a half dried up trickle of analogue swirls with a neat run of clean walking bass lines and drums. There’s some sweetness at hand with boy /girl vocal playthings, and it stands in the LP like the life-pondering thinker in the corner of an out of hand house party.
Outside of these tracks there’s Snapped Ankles-esque jitter, Crack Cloud abstractions and Flat Worms style off kilter scratches. In this tight run of three minute snapshots of anger, each skewed by their knee jerk reflections, the very worst track you’ll here find is least favorite. This particular compact and pleasurable mess is the best that Slumb Party have sounded.