Naked Giants - SLUFF - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Naked Giants - SLUFF

by Mark Moody Rating:6 Release Date:2018-04-13
Naked Giants - SLUFF
Naked Giants - SLUFF

The Presidents of the United States of America better lawyer up.  And I’m not talking about the guys that have resided at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Seattle based trio Naked Giants openly rip off their hometown 1990’s predecessor, alternative pop band Presidents of the United States of America’s ‘Lump’ and manage to swipe the opening riff of Wire’s ‘Three Girl Rhumba’ in the same song.  Maybe if you mix the songs together it’s not thievery, but seems more the basis for a class action lawsuit.  Fellow Pacific Northwesterner Kyle Craft routinely did the same on his LP earlier this year, mixing riffs and melodies together that you know you’ve heard somewhere before.  Given the same Wire song was already ripped off by Elastica over twenty years ago, maybe the passage of time and being more under the radar will allow Naked Giants to escape unscathed on the mix-master single ‘TV’.    

The cover of their debut album, SLUFF, also has a distinctly 1980’s coming of age teen movie vibe about it.  The photo would have fit right in as a still from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and the band’s power pop/hard rock leanings would have made them the perfect house band for just about any John Hughes movie you can think of.  The trio of Grant Mullen (guitar/vocals), Gianni Aiello (bass/vocals), and Henry LaVallee (drums), seem like the type of guys that have been playing together since high school and they definitely have their chops down with their selected instruments.  Unfortunately being proficient doesn’t necessarily equate to great songs or a good album and that’s decidedly the case here.

There are a few interesting tracks scattered over the almost fifty minute running time of the album, but the rest is pretty forgettable.  The bouncy crunch of ‘We’re Alone’ is an early album highlight and has a big hook and toe tapping melody.  The title track is one of the most concise hard rockers here, but comes up a winner given the buzzsaw guitar, “ooh ooh” harmonies and shouted chorus.  The song also seems to sum up many of the recurring themes (if you can call them that) of being dead or alone, so cheers to that.  The heartbreak falsetto of ‘Slow Dance II’ with its fluid soloing is another of the better tracks.  While the closing ‘Shredded Again’ comes off like a hard rock band playing to the crowd with one acoustic song, it does work in spite of its seven minute length.  The guys take on the lazy Muswell Hillbillies era Kinks carnival harmonies near the end of the song and maybe even cop a little of Father John Misty’s non-sensical one liners - “I sent my dead mother an email” - okay!

The band describes themselves on their website as playing the role of “dumb, hedonistic rock band” and that sums it up pretty well.  Or as Julie Brown sang in the era they seem to most echo - she liked ‘em big and stupid.  In my 80s/90s record shopping heyday this is the type of album you would see in the “cut-out” bin for months on end.  I guess I prefer my rock stars to be more morose, tortured and desperately artsy.  Naked Giants are more the type of party band every city has a few of that make the suits feel cool for a few hours at Friday night party on the plaza over some light beers.  Rock on you Naked Giants! 

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