For a Saratoga Springs, NY band that takes their name from a certain character on The Wire and describes their genre as “crunk,” Slim Charles is not what one would expect. The self-proclaimed “math rock,” funky-bass-inspired prog rockers’ debut EP, Versus Fatso Jr., is populated with intricate rhythms and a clear passion for hefty guitar work but fails to make an impression.
For one, the group is young but draws influence from a variety of early ’90s ska, prog, and alt rock troubadours. Thus, the term “crunk” doesn’t seem especially apt to Slim Charles; perhaps it’s more funky, west coast college rock. There are heavy doses of prog rock in the group’s spacey song structures; however, this is not incredibly attention-grabbing.
“Flowmonster”, the opener with free-flowing bass and ska-inspired rhythms, has an out-of-place, pealing guitar solo that fails to jive with the rest of the song, setting up a disproportionate tone for the EP. Actual math titles kick in for a trio of tunes–“Calculate”, “Triangulate”, and “Algebra”–and the refrains are rhythmically complex but sound shallow, the at times impressive bass work and rhythm support coming across as distant. Though the mix is homogeneous, “Triangulate” breaks away as the more entertaining and tighter-sounding of the tracks with subtle, interwoven fret work and hyped-up “heys” punctuating the punchy rocker.
The standout on the album is “Words (string quartet)”, a reprieve from the disjointed, illogical guitar barrage on the earlier portion of Versus Fatso Jr. The closer, though instrumental, features the frenetic prog rock style in a refined and stunning string quartet take, a much more appealing composition that doesn’t fit in with the prior tracks.
Centered around a great concept with a few moments of intrigue, Versus Fatso Jr. features a fledgling band seeking to hone and flesh out their sound.
Essential Tracks: ”Triangulate”, “Words (string quartet)”