Slonk, a garage pop/punk project out of Bristol are on the eve of releasing their fourth record “Where Do You See Yourself In 5 Years” and after being sent an early link by the lovely folks over at Breakfast Records, I initially was grabbed by the intriguing album cover and upon further listening, I have many thoughts. So, if you’ll indulge my ego once again dear reader, I’ll have a bit of a ramble.
Led by Joe Sherrin, Slonk, which by the way I think is such a cool band name, have had a modicum of success. Many thousands of listens across a variety of streaming platforms have developed a small but respectable following and I’m sure the fans are all geared up for this new record. But personally? I have very mixed thoughts on “Where Do You See Yourself In 5 Years”. Don’t get me wrong I think the songs are good, and the record overall has a fun, upbeat quality to it. I will also commend the fact that this album boasts a total of 15 tracks, over double the length of their debut “Losing My Mind On The Outside Of Everything”. My issue is that these are all sounds we’ve heard before. The garage punk sound was old in the mid noughties, and in 2021 really has no place unless you are a die-hard fan of the genre.
The A side is mostly made up of the safer poppy tracks, this was probably done intentionally in the hopes of a hit, but I don’t understand why someone would try to go for hits in a genre that is largely dead. If this is music that you genuinely love then why not take risks! I do like the synth melody on “Colin” and the synth work throughout the record is simple and tasteful. But the guitar work is so generic, especially in its rhythm, which is a real downside. The vocal performance is raw and authentic and I love the harmonies, which almost makes up for the more negative points throughout but not quite.
There are some slightly heavier cuts on the album, a slight nod to stoner rock with the fuzzed up lead guitar bends, and I do like the addition reverb heavy backing vocals on tracks like “Margaret”. But most of this album is rather by the numbers. I would have liked to hear some unusual chord voicings or odd time signatures. Just something not so stereotypical for the genre. However, Slonk achieve a few standout moments that I only wish I could hear more of. The swelling strings on the end of “Tracy” and the synthesisers in introduction to “Little Tod” really point to what could be. In fact, the whole B side is pretty solid. I can see Sherrin and company are wanting to experiment with the formula and I am hoping that in future Slonk go even further in that regard.
The thing is, these are quality songs, catchy and infectious. I genuinely believe all punk bands should have a pop sensibility, ala the Ramones. But like those early punk recordings, the production is very DIY and while it can work for some bands, here it does not. The lo-fi filter on vocals throughout just becomes very annoying. I will also note that whoever mixed this did an awful job on the balancing. I found myself regularly having to adjust the volume to hear certain things and to generally keep things at a low to mid volume. You cannot gun this album without it sounding harsh and noisy. Bands, get the memo on this, you can sound raw without making everything lo-fi. If they’d gone in the realm of a vulnerable Neil Young style production I could easily bump up the album a point or two (If I actually did scores, I’m not Fantano) but in its current state its unforgiveable.
So, pros and cons. Great pop songwriting, cool visual aesthetic, good performances, the beginnings of unique ideas, with the downside of piss poor production, generic guitar work and everything sounding a bit too samey. Would I recommend you listen to this album? Honestly, yes. In its entirety. I just can’t make my mind up on if I like this record or not! I have a feeling Slonk is like marmite. It’s going to be hugely different to different people and will be loved or hated depending on who tries it. It comes out August 27th on Breakfast Records and I will be awaiting the release of this and all future Slonk records. Now I’m off to check out the rest of their discography. You should do the same.
Peace, Love and Cowbells,