(Deathbomb Arc, 2016)
When does it get old, rehashing all those stories about how your band was awesome back in the day? You know what I mean – sitting with a couple friends around the bar, reminiscing over a couple of beers about how awesome it was that one time you covered Failure in the parking lot of an ECW event while everybody was arriving for the pro wrestling and not for you. Still, they couldn’t not hear you, you know? Man, those were the days.
The answer, to “When does it get old?,” is fourteen years. That’s what it is for the Slowcoach boys anyway, the duo comprised of Bob and Dan, the original members, the ones who came out un- … or rather semi-scathed from the 2002 fallout that did in the original incarnation of their band. Retirement didn’t suit them, and it didn’t suit us, the listeners who were ready to be (re)introduced. They had some songs sitting around that they just needed to dust off – or maybe they didn’t and just felt like fucking around in the old practice space – and working together again proved to be invigorating. That’s why Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fondelier, their first release of several (well, definitely a couple, maybe more) that mark the dawn of a fertile new period for the group, is such a welcome surprise.
They hooked up with their old buddies at Deathbomb Arc for this one, a single-sided twelve-inch, five recordings that sound at once remarkably familiar and yet are virtually impossible to pin down. I guess it would be easy to call them indie rock, or even slowcore or bedroom pop, but man would that be selling them short. It’s the nuances that make Slowcoach’s tunes so much more interesting than the average slacker songwriter fare, and we can ascribe their success to the subtle sonic adventures that Bob and Dan undertake.
Is it as funny to you that I say that as it is to me? Because man, there’s a definite J Mascis-fronting-Sebadoh vibe that happens early on, during “Ask Me What I Want,” the bummeriest bummer tune this side of Dino J’s cover of “Quicksand.” I love Dino J’s cover of “Quicksand,” so hey, that’s a good sign. It comes right on the heels of thirty shoegaze seconds called “The Fevers” that open the LP, and talk about planting an emotional signpost. But these guys have their tongues crammed too far in their cheeks to really get you down. The awesomely titled “Art through the Ages Is Killing Me” has some old Beck/One Foot in the Grave action, complete with campfire guitar and K Records drumming, and even pitchshifted vocals! It’s like there was an old tape from 1994 lying around that got mixed in with the new recordings.
But don’t let the fidelity tricks fool you. “Your Smiling Face” could have landed on Slowdive’s Souvlaki, and I make that comparison only partly because Slowdive comes after Slowcoach on my iTunes playlist. OK, maybe that’s a stretch, but it’s awfully jangly and wonderful, and Meat Puppets probably wish they’d written it. But the real star of Distance is instrumental centerpiece “My Girl,” seven and a half minutes of experimental rock that moves from straight indie to a lo-fi fuzz-bass drone concoction, proving that Bob and Dan have some tricks up their sleeve. It’s a fascinating rabbit hole down which you can discover the seemingly impossible terrain rock music can traverse.
What Slowcoach have done is craft a short paean to their heyday, a pre-Internet (or pre-high-speed-Internet, anyway) time capsule when print zines and mail-order catalogs still meant something. And somehow, the aesthetic and the heart behind it still means something today, when tangibility and contact have lost their sheen on a mainstream level, replaced by digital convenience. And how about that throwback cover??? Thank god Slowcoach is here to remind us of what we’ve lost, and thank god they’re going to continue doing this whole music thing again for a little while.