Total Slacker totally fits its name. Not that the music is lazy or anything, it just fits their ‘90s-revival vibe.
On the band's last record, Thrashin', the ‘90s thing was a little too literal. Eventually, references to “Full House,” Sega and VHS tapes get old. Luckily, this band is good enough to overcome that. Tucker Rountree, Dave Tassy, Emily Oppenheimer and Zoë Brecher can build up a mountain of sound that's bigger than nostalgia. It helps, too, that Slip Away did away with the references.
This is darker and even a little sadder. “Sometimes you got to die / Just to know you're alive,” he moans over droning bass and lethargically thrashing drums on “Sometimes You Gotta Die.” You can't avoid thinking of the band's former drummer, Terence Connor, who died in a hit-and-run one year ago. But more than the lyrics, the downer effect comes from the band's move toward shoegaze. There are fewer clear guitar melodies on Slip Away, and more blurry walls of sound. It works best for them on songs like “Keep the Ships at Bay” or “Out of Body Experience,” which both kick the momentum and volume up a couple notches.
But without some propulsive force or a strong backbone, some of the songs just feel bogged down in noise. The record needs the strong hooks on the better tracks to snap you out of a daze. Those songs alone are enough to pull you through.