In America, we like our pop/rock music a certain way; catchy rhythms, pitch perfect vocals, and lyrics you can easily remember (then quickly forget) with as little experimentation as possible. There are definitely a few exceptions to that rule — James Blake, Imogen Heap, Janelle Monae — but for the most part we like our artists to color strictly inside the lines, to keep it palatable. So why should we, as Americans, listen to a British artist like SLUG—aka Ian Black—who doesn’t just colour inside the lines, but all over the whole damn page?
RIPE has a little something for everyone. Want to roll your windows down and crank a real banger? Track 8: “Running to Get Past Your Heart.” Dig the surf rock sound of The Ventures or Dick Dale? Track 3: “Sha La La.” Need a little hit of funk to get you through the day? Track 5: “Greasy Mind.” It’s not all sunshine though, with a couple more sinister tracks like “At Least Show That You Care,” which has an opening interlude that harkens back to the early ’80s British 2 Tone sound. There’s also “Weight of Violence,” which is definitely an odd duck in the bunch, with its repeating steel drum melody. It’s not the first track you would flip to, but it fits in just fine while spinning the record.
And then there’s “Cockeyed Rabbit in Plastic,” the true highlight. At just under three minutes, it assaults you with heavily distorted guitar and bass, accented by an infinitely danceable drum beat and playful falsetto vocals. It’s a Mark Ronson track covered by Trent Reznor with Robert Fripp on guitar and Ziggy Modeliste on drums.
So why should you listen to RIPE, especially as a fan of American pop music? I don’t know. I also don’t care. What is “good” or “bad” is always going to be subjective, no matter what argument is made for it. What I can tell you is this: the best music comes from artists who refuse to compromise their art for the sake of the listener. SLUG does that especially well, and even if you don’t dig the album you have to respect the art that he puts out there. I just happen to love the album as well.
The production on RIPE is terrific, thanks in part to the skills of Field Music’s David and Peter Brewis, who co-produced the album with Black. There are some really interesting techniques used, like micing the drum kit with only two vocal mics for “Running to Get Past Your Heart” and using a synthy distortion on both the guitar and bass on “Cockeyed Rabbit in Plastic.” Overall it has a very even sound without being too tightly compressed.
RIPE comes in a standard medium weight gatefold jacket, with a download code included as a sticker on the inner sleeve. I am a huge fan of putting the code on the inner sleeve, as download cards tend to fall out and get lost over time. The disc itself is pressed on white vinyl with a white minimalist label. The jacket has a very cut and paste feel, which conveys the overall theme of the album quite well.
“Cockeyed Rabbit in Plastic,” “Sha La La” & “Running To Get Past Your Heart.”
“Ripe” is available on white vinyl at Memphis Industries.