Total Slacker exists within that dangerous line between gimmicky and legitimate. The quartet — joined by drummer Zoë Brecher after the hit-and-run death of original drummer Terence Connor — isn’t shy about its ‘90s alternative influences, more a throwback act than a forward-thinking one. What saves Total Slacker from being a simple retrograde band, however, is rather than simply referring to the era’s musical aesthetics, these are Gen X characteristics in action — the misguided angst, the too cool to care attitude, the social detachment.
That’s not to say that actively recapturing that mindset buoys their new album, Slip Away, but it’s the context that guides the album’s peaks and troughs. A majority of the highs are structured around vehement, directionless energy. Like a rush of blood to the head at the album’s core, “Out of Body Experience” hits with howling, textured guitars before hopping in that time machine, with Tucker Rountree bounding in, detached, and Emily Oppenheimer putting on her best Kim Gordon. The energy takes a slight dive on the snarling, yet catchy “Keep the Ships at Bay” and never quite gets back to that high mark (but there are still bursts of it throughout). If the majority of Slip Away is Seattle, then “See Right Through” is a memorable trip to sunny SoCal to break through the clouds. Distortion runs raucous later on in the satisfying peaks of highlight “Super Big Gulp”. But again, this haphazard energy leads to missteps like the cacophonous solo on “Would If I Could”.
At its worst, Slip Away has the trappings of a teenager in ’93: there’s some effort, but not enough maturity to make up for its indulgence. In addition to the musical performance echoing those youthful impulses, the lyricism exposes many a minor’s inherent lack of ambition. It’s not that the Thighmaster reference and unrepressed focus on the term “Yuppie” are too esoteric (a lot can be taken as tongue in cheek anyway), but a dedication to the culture of the past shouldn’t come in the way of musicianship. The main offender of this is “Touch Yourself”, a crude reference to the self-betterment morals of Boy Meets World lore that translates into a grating hook. The eye-rolling delivery of “I Don’t Want to Be a Yuppie” only inspires the same reaction, Total Slacker’s namesake proving a little too apt.
Essential Tracks: “Out of Body Experience”, “Keep the Ships at Bay”