We come across it every day. Companies smother us with marketing schemes telling us that happiness is found in slimmer thighs, smoother armpits and bleach-white teeth. Follow this up with a torrent of photoshopped images in magazines and, for many of us, it’s a sure recipe for debilitating insecurity and self-loathing. Such unreachably perfect fantasies are sold to us everywhere we look, breeding toxic messages which are then constantly repeated by the rest of society. Yet, as social media continues to chip away at our self-esteems, Norwegian band Sløtface (pronounced slut-face) are having none of it. Fearlessly tackling a range of issues around sexism and xenophobia, Sløtface challenge and empower. On their debut album Try Not to Freak Out, Sløtface have fired up their arsenal for maximum impact, ready to call out the world with music that sparkles as much as it rages. Indeed, as Haley Shea bellows on opening track ‘Magazine’: “Patti Smith would never put up with this shit”. It’s all about starting a conversation—and being heard.
Sløtface embrace political activism, having performed at peaceful protests in Norway and spoken out about women’s rights on a multitude of platforms. Here, Try Not to Freak Out brings a fire to the topics that are currently dominating our everyday lives. The album’s sequence of anthems burst at the seams with unrelenting energy and passionate charged messages. For example, ’Magazine’ challenges impossible body standards. ‘Nancy Drew’ rips up patriarchal rule through the song’s central persona: in Shea’s terms, “a bad-ass super hero who crushes the music industry’s boys’ club and the patriarchy with one punch”. It’s about time we saw punk rock unleash its combatant force to power through the selfie-orientated shite of our modern world.
But it’s not all serious. For all the championing of the prejudiced and the oppressed, musically their anthemic melodies privilege poppy choruses and hooks (indeed, getting into the pop charts may be what will get their conversation heard?). The energy stays sky-high as we move from the blinding technicolor of ‘Galaxies’ to the angsty thrashing riffs of ‘Sun Bleached’. ‘Pitted’ is an ode to the apex years of our adolescence, the era of the WKD-fuelled house party, and late-night pondering such as “Why didn’t anybody warn me about the dangers of playing “I Have Never” with Prosecco?”. Shea’s astounding vocal cords shine through the breakdown, as tempos step up and guitar lines soar. It’s nothing short of an electrified bundle of unapologetic fun. Then we get an undertone of tenderness and intimacy on the following track ‘Slumber’, which takes us up into a chant-like ethereal matrimony of harmonised vocals and swirling guitars.
The eleven tracks together cover the crisp white canvas in pinks, greens and blood-red orange. It’s music that channels the punk militant fervour of the riot grrrl movement but never denies us of the zesty indie-pop fun which we can dance to. And that’s exciting. The female perspective is elevated to towering firework-spitting heights, making a stand against normalised toxic ‘magazine’ ideals and sexual harassment in mosh pits. Unstoppable and infectious, Sløtface are a band who will in no doubt rise to brilliance in the coming year—having had opportunities blocked in the past by social media websites censoring their former band name, Try Not to Freak Out kicks the door wide open.
-- Georgina Quach, September 13, 2017