Review: Slugpuppies “Emotherapy”
Texas is probably the last place I would look for garage or alternative rock. On those hot dusty plains, I’m likely to think of country, blues, Stevie Ray Vaughn, honky tonk, and beer swilling (bad beer at that) crusty pokes in cowboy hats. Oh yeah, and don’t forget Texas style death metal. But garage rock? I don’t think so. Dallas based Slugpuppies, however, gave me cause to reconsider my opinions.
Formed during the summer of 2005 with five members, The Slugpuppies’ history is typical of young aspiring bands: form, lose members, disband, reform, and then press on to an album. In 2009, The Slugpuppies are a four piece with original players Phillp Meyer (g,v), Joel Ball (d), and Kevin Preston (g), joined by newcomer Matthew Grope on bass. With the melodrama gone and the strength of a consistent lineup, Meyer, the principal singer and songwriter, was able to work diligently on their debut, Emotherapy.
Never quite understanding what the whole ‘emo’ thing meant, but knowing I hated most of the artists and music surrounding it, I was quite suspect of this album. Lyrically, much of Emotherapy has all the self-absorbed, navel-gazing confessions of the genre. Musically, however, the disc ventures more toward modern alt rock with strong melodies and healthy smatterings of progressive and psychedelic rock.
On the end side, songs like I Can’t Feel the Rain or To Drown a Dream are milder numbers that rely heavily on vocals and acoustic guitar for early grunge introspection. On the modern alternative side, The Slugpuppies depend on less than subtle amounts of distortion and a hollow garage cave production, as on Brain Disease or Ineffectual, to promote their music. None of these aspects hurt the Puppies in the least, but neither are the songs tremendously novel or convincing because of them.
Better were the songs that followed the more progressive track. Goodwill Towards Man developed a more psychedelic 70’s feel with an ethereal vocal arrangement and uncommon fretwork. The longer Finding Your Way was quite impressive as it measured heavier riffs with sublime moments and impassioned vocals. However, the real star of Emotherapy was the magnificent instrumental, Peck of the Rooster, which displays fine song composition and soaring guitar work.
Some final notes are worth mentioning. A musical kudo should go to Musical Eugenecide, a quirky and catchy alt pop number that will surely attract the current modern rock crowd. Also, The Slugpuppies should also be praised for their artsy and clever packaging done by CNM Design. This latter fact alone gives them huge professional credibility.
Though hardly up my daily musical alley, The Slugpuppies’ Emotherapy is a sound and polished contribution to the modern alt rock genre. I’m likely to whip this album out for my scarf-wearing, latte-slobbering, alt rock snobs the next time they bust my musical chops for listening to Metallica or Killswitch Engage.
Reviewed By Craig Hartranft