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Slushy - Pastime Gardens (2014) review

Slushy "Pastime Gardens" (Grabbing Clouds Records & Tapes, 2014)

I don’t exactly know how it’s possible for a band to sound so freakin’ punk and yet so poppy and surfy at the same time.  Usually it leans one way or the other, but Slushy are quickly earning a reputation for being able to do what so few other bands are truly capable of, traversing between the lines, skillfully evading definitions or labels.  Pastime Gardens might sound slightly different from earlier releases, perhaps a little bit more deliberate and collected than before, but other than that, little has changed with Slushy’s infectious lo-fi Motwon surf rock meets the Ramones sound.  Opening with “Now I Need You” the listener is instantly transported to the sleazy gas station dwelling domains housing the drink that Slushy draws their name from.  They sound like Brian Wilson started a band on a drinking binge in the back alley of a 711.  And then they recorded the album there in a complete stupor of inspiration.  “Summertime Girls” does a perfect job of evoking its’ name sake, gently pounding waves of reverberated guitar and keys coming and going like the tide.  People don’t write songs like this anymore, its way to catchy and lacks the jaded undertones that belie so many attempts at this kind of music.  By the time it’s done you really do feel like it’s summer time, you feel like getting up and shacking your ass, moving around and having some fun…  “Montanaro” is a foray into the reverb soaked world of the late-60s beach-side sound gone terribly wrong, or maybe horribly right?  Either way, the unhinged melody of “Montanaro” is a toe-tapper to be sure!  I’ll be damned if you’re not singing along with the chorus by the end of the song, “Montanaro, Montanaro, Montanaro…” the undulating spacey feedback fading in and out of existence to great success.  At times I can’t help but feel like there’s this kind of folky Americana undercurrent going on in Slushy’s music.  It’s something almost reminiscent of Dylan right after he plugged in, but just before he drank his last brain cell into utter oblivion and teamed with a perfect 60’s garage rock sensibilities, and “So Happy” is a perfect example.  Yeah, it’s catchy as hell and it’s presented in a pretty accessible way, but there’s something really cool and unique about these songs.  It’s that certain something that sets Slushy apart from the competition in my opinion.  “Good Luck Charm” has all the chanting, repetitive power that Slushy are able to summon from punk rock, but it also still stays well within the sun-soaked Californian framework laid-out on previous tracks.  Like a lot of Slushy’s stuff if you were to find a 45 of this stuff along with a stash of other unknown garage rockers from the late 60’s from say San Fran or something, you’d be hard pressed to pick out as being out of place.  “She’s Going Away” on the other hand is another one of those songs where you can’t help but feel like the Beach Boys went on some sort of deranged bender, recorded a literal mess of songs, and now forty years out, someone dug ‘em up and dumped the tape straight to wax!  There’s a wild, almost manic exuberance to these songs, insanely distorted, sparkly guitar exploding from the recesses and hum of the tape.  “Run Wild” might be my favorite song on Pastime Garden.  I don’t know exactly what it is about “Run Wild” that drives me nuts, but I find myself listening to it over and over again.  I feel like it somehow perfectly sums up 90’s rock, but it manages to filter out all the pretentiousness and bullshit that was involved with the industry back then.  There’s nothing sappy or silly about “Run Wild” and while a lot of Slushy’s stuff can come off as a little bit less than extremely serious music, there’s something special about “Run Wild” something that will ensure I’ll be coming back to this song for a long while.  “Little Heart” does a wonderful job of following up from “Run Wild”, delivering a healthy dose of infectious hooks and summoning up more of that delightful spaced out feedback that lies in wait in the hissing background of the album’s mix, smattering it through out “Little Heart” for good measure; it also has a nice guitar break on it, something I think Slushy could do more often in fact.  Whimsical might be the perfect way to describe a good deal of Slushy’s music and I think that songs like “Television” are why.  It’s not a parody by any stretch of the imagination, and I don’t mean to insinuate that there’s a comical angle to Slushy’s music, but they do have the rare quality of being able to not take themselves too seriously and translate that into their music without coming off like a complete joke.  Just listen to the lyrics to “Television” and tell me you don’t crack a smile, I mean it’s freakin’ impossible!  The song is perfect!  Of all the songs on Pastime Gardens “Round & Round” represents the Slushy that I fell in love with best, without question.  At just over a minute along, it somehow comes off as a completely coherent, finished song.  For anyone who doesn’t write music, that’s a hell of a feat in this writer’s opinion.  Following up from that “Fun In The Sun” is exactly what it sounds like, though with a name like that you’d think that there’d be more of that backup oohing and aahing used to such great effect on much of the rest of the album, no that I’m complaining.  “Fun In The Sun” is one of the higher quality sounding recordings on the album, it packs just a little more fidelity and therefore just a little bit more punch, and I can’t quite tell if that was from an intentional recording approach or it just kind of happened to work out that way, and I suppose it doesn’t really matter.  It’s perfectly placed on the album and works insanely well as a transition into the frantic energy of “Teenage Frankenstein”.  If you’re a DIY freak this song will have you “going out of your mind”, I know I was freaking out the first time I heard it!  The crumpling lead guitar lines which build and tumble, imploding and exploding through out the song elevating the energy level through the roof on this one!  If there were any candidates for the A-side to a single on Pastime Gardens “Teenage Frankenstein” is the clear forerunner for me, now questions asked.  The album feels like it should almost be finishing when you’re listening to the next track “Done With Fun” at first.  It’s like a rejection of the notions espoused on the rest of the album of sorts, another tongue-in-cheek declaration of teenage rebellion, inebriation and most importantly adventure and excitement.  It’s the anti-ballad to end all ballads, along with bullshit and sobriety.  “Reverberations” makes it clear why the album doesn’t end with “Done With Fun” from the minute it starts though.  There’s a sweet mellow vibe going on that recalls the sweet calming sounds of surf as much as it does Syd Barrett or 13th Floor Elevators psychedelia.  “Reverberations” is definitely the best song on Pastime Gardens.  

It might not always be the song that I put on first, but I can’t listen to the album without giving it a spin.  It showcases everything that Slushy is capable of as a band, the incredibly dynamic and infectious sound that they’re able to create together, the chemical chemistry or biological makeup of the band, call it whatever you want.  It feels like watching the last dying rays of a summer sun from the backseat of your parent’s station wagon on your way home from vacation.  That sense of remorse for the summer ending, but also the anticipation, hope and wonder that would come with the following year of school, new kids and most importantly girls, ha-ha.  It touches on a time past for me, a time before all the pressures and hassles of my life now and I need that shit at this point.  “Reverberations” isn’t just the best song either.  It perfectly sums up why Slushy is such a great band more so than any other song on Pastime Gardens and it’s the kind of song that I think if most of us wrote we could be content with crap for the rest of our lives because we had made that one shinning pinnacle of everything we represented.  “Reverberations” is fucking magical.  Released by the up and coming Grabbing Clouds Records & Tapes in Chicago Pastime Gardens is limited to only 500 copies worldwide and I’ve heard that the initial 100 copies on milky clear vinyl with cyan haze are already completely gone.  Don’t worry though, there’s still black wax for everyone who needs it, or you can pick up the cassette version, or the digital version…  Just make sure and get your greasy mitts on this and whatever you do, don’t miss out on this killer slice of the Chicago DIY sound.

Review made by Roman Rathert/2014
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