In the same way that every country/alt. rock female singer these days has to be ‘the new Courtney Barnett’, new indie garage bands fronted by women are bound to be ‘the new Honeyblood’. So it is with Sløtface. And after the rather disappointing second Honeyblood album, these kids from Norway are desperately needed to fill that gap. (The new Honeyblood probably wasn’t that bad, but there’s bad blood between us. I tried to get them for an interview since they are coming to Oxford next weekend, and their press agent managed to bargain an e-mail Q&A instead because it would be better for promotion, which is dull, and then after weeks I got sent back completely bland, uninformative two-sentence answers, which was even duller, so I’ve got something against them now. Just say you don’t have time for an interview if, well, you don’t have time. Don’t waste my time.)
Staying positive though, Sløtface are great fun, whoever they sound like. The band’s from Stavanger, a city I know of because one of my best friends and fellow physics students also lives there. Like a good Norwegian, he is a polite boy, and so are the boys and girls from Sløtface. When I saw them play in London at Halloween – sporting bizarre black wigs temporarily hiding their Scandinavion blondness – they desperately tried to be rock ‘n’ roll, but unconvincingly so. They’re just too cute. In one ‘incident’, the guitar players walked through the small crowd of the Lock Tavern and for a moment it seemed like it was gonna be rowdy, but after taking the stage again he asked with concern whether he spilled someone’s drink, apologised and even offered his own drink to the person in question. During the same gig, the guy on bass decides to throw some Halloween candy into the crowd – eat that! eyeballs! – but hesitates because a) he’s unsure whose candy it is and b) he wants to wait until the moment they start the next song because that would be cool. These issues are shared with the rest of the crew and the crowd, at which point the spontaneity is gone. But he actually does throw us the candy, after which the lead singer reprimands him, telling us to eat the sweets off the floor because “otherwise it’s wasteful”!
Despite lacking the rock ‘n’ roll attitude – for the better, by the way; kindness and care is much better – there are some mean songs on Empire Records. The best among them is ‘Take Me Dancing’, so infectious that indeed you can’t refuse the urge to dance. The way Haley Shea almost begs to just have some fun (“Pleeeaaase, take me out dancing this Saturday night!”) shows the power of her scraping voice. It’s also a plea for simplicity and entertainment, and again this reveals how not punk Sløtface are, because for the likes of NOTS and Sleater-Kinney, ‘entertainment’ is a dirty word. Though of course, this is resistance in its own right: a refusal to see politics as boring, a denial of the (wrong) idea that feminism is restrictive.
The other tracks on the EP pale a bit in comparison, although spiky ‘Bright Lights’ and especially the enthusiastic title track ‘Empire Records’ aren’t bad either. Only ‘Fever Art’, the ballad at the end, doesn’t sound altogether convincing. Perhaps the band should stick with loud, despite their Norwegian reservedness. From those up-tempo tracks blending indie-garage with light-heartedness and fun (while still maintaining a subtle political undertone) I certainly want to hear more. The new Honeyblood? Maybe soon they’ll be even better than that!
-- Caspar Jacobs, November 22, 2016