Three barbershop singers and a nun walk into a bar, specifically, on Wednesday 19th at the Green Door Store. Slug are touring their second album, HiggledyPiggledy, and they’re really grateful to be there. Entering alongside deliberate static from the PA, their outfits were kitschy, unexplained and entirely unnecessary – and maybe so were the sound effects. They wanted us to know before even getting on stage that they were pretty fun guys. However, I can’t be too harsh, because they came across like they probably are. They’re a little bit camp – theatrical and enthusiastic; a bit scruffy and a bit hairy. They wouldn’t look out of place sat at the bar of The Albert across the road. Plus, Ian Black seems like a genuinely wonderful human – modest and personable, someone you know would be good to grab a drink with, and probably actually dislikes very few people.
The playfulness and infantilism they demonstrate in physical appearance are also present in their music: dancey, indie, arty pop. Obviously, their history together in Field Music (Ian used to play in the touring band alongside now-Slug members Peter and David Brewis) does great things for them, both in their genre choice, and the tightness of their set. Though, saying this, Slug are still the younger siblings; there’s still a bit of growing to do.
The basslines are just as funky as their predecessor band, the sound effects still grandly peculiar. Ian clearly learnt from the experience how to isolate and utilise a great hook, such as in ‘No Heavy Petting’, a pretty simple staccato riff they’ve strung out to be the backbone for the whole track, taking short breaks for inserts of (what I assumed to be) Ariel Pink-inspired weird, melodic, dreamy pop. The sound is unique to them, sounding like something suited to a retro computer game but, you know, with some slightly more complex songwriting being behind it. Tetris with talent (though I’m not saying Tetris doesn’t require talent, oh be quiet). They like synths, they like being silly and, combined with their legitimate talent, they’ve successfully turned that combination into some enjoyable albums.
Vocally, Ian sounds pretty similar to Josh Homme but better, because he didn’t recently kick a female photographer in the face. Always a bonus. Also, as I mentioned, Black seems like a lovely, lovely man, kind and slightly vulnerable, so the antithesis of Homme, really. He used the same kind of falsetto tone, a great example of this is on ‘Greasy Mind’, which has a novelty creepy vibe. As mentioned, it’s a bit camp, a bit theatrical, and that’s the best part.
They aren’t particularly inflammatory or subversive; they don’t appear to be the deepest or have some wider message, it’s just jangly indie-pop and some novelty costumes. If this was physical art, it would be a loud illustration, an abstract print: harmless and a bit colourful. Probably like the album cover.
Supporting that night was World News, three ex-BIMM’ers, who looked a bit like they were cut from an 80s high school flick – and also sounded a bit like that too. However, that’s fine in a town (and university) that doesn’t give the era much attention. Who doesn’t love a reverb/tremolo pedal combination? To start, the room was empty, they shrugged at each other, then began. Soon after, they had a turn out they could boast about (for a Wednesday evening, at a small venue). To finish, the crowd (/friends) started shouting ‘SMOKO’ at World News, and so, they reluctantly finished on their own rendition of The Chats banger. I’ll admit, this was probably my favourite part of their set. They even nailed the accent. I suppose, turn-out-wise, staying in the town you went to uni in, has its ups and downs alike.