The debut album from the Alabama trio is an absolute masterclass in jangle pop, bearing the hallmarks of some of the greats
There was a moment in the 00s where Bruce Springsteen’s cultural significance took a huge leap. It’s not like he was ever forgotten, but suddenly, buzzy indie bands like Arcade Fire, Spoon, The National and The Killers started referencing him and his popularity exploded even past his early 80s prime.
What’s this got to do with Slack Times? Not much really, except that it seems like there’s a similar (albeit sadly posthumous) Tom Petty revolution under way. Already this year, Discover favourites Young Guv mined Petty’s Full Moon Fever for Guv III’s stunning opener ‘Couldn’t Leave U If I Tried’. And now Slack Times have done similar with the frankly brilliant title track off their debut album Carried Away.
There’s a strange thing that happens when a band launches their debut album with a song as good as ‘Carried Away’. Your brain splits in two, one half sure you’ve just discovered something wonderful, the other half telling it to sit down and shut up, there’s no way this is sustainable. The thing about Slack Times is that the quality of ‘Carried Away’ is indeed sustained, but the band quickly demonstrate that they’re no Petty fetishists (Pettishists?). Instead, Carried Away reveals a trio well-versed in all things that jangle.
Hailing from Birmingham, Alabama, Slack Times follow in the great Southern tradition of bands like R.E.M., Reivers, Guadalcanal Diary and Let’s Active. Southern jangle and paisley pop run deep in this group’s DNA, but Slack Times are masters of more than just a guitar tone. On their debut full-length they position themselves at the forefront of a new breed of indie poppers that champions impeccable melodies over all else. Throughout, Slack Times easily rival peers such as Ducks Ltd., Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Alvvays and Kiwi Jr, as well as forebearers from The Bats to The Feelies.
Across Carried Away, which is an amalgamation of two previous EPs and six new songs, guitarists Will Stewart and Chris McCauley share vocal duties. McCauley takes the majority, with Stewart stepping up on three, his laconic delivery nicely contrasting with McCauley’s reedy, jittery style. It’s impossible to choose sides; McCauley’s ‘I’m Trying’ and 80s throwback ‘Look At You’ are early highpoints, while Stewart’s lovely ‘Only Now’ closes the album on a gentle, almost sleepy note.
Slack Times might have one foot in the legacy of their hometown, but on Carried Away they make it clear that the other one is firmly in a very bright and very jangly future.
Carried Away is out 24 June on Meritorio Records.