Try Not To Freak Out—the debut full-length from Norwegian pop-punk band Sløtface—has been a long time in the making. Although the group’s first release dates back to 2013, they became a hot topic of online chatter last year when they announced they were changing their name from “Slutface”—a seemingly fabricated controversy that ended up being a PR grand slam. “We have in no way changed our political and feminist message,” the group said in a statement. “We just hope to reach more people with our lyrics and message by changing one silly letter of our name and thereby avoiding censorship.”
That message is front and center on Try Not To Freak Out, and in the grand tradition of punk rock, it is delivered with shotgun blast accuracy. On fuzzy opener “Magazine”—which kicks off with indelible “oohs” and Keep It Like a Secret-styled guitar pyrotechnics—lead vocalist Haley Shea skewers the media for propagating unrealistic beauty standards. “Picking you up just to put you down again / What the hell is an ‘it girl’ anyway?” she sings, before landing the chorus with a vindictive, “they’re on our side” sneer: “Patti Smith would never put up with this shit.”
While that chorus might be a little cloying, “Magazine” is a powerful mission statement. It also comes with a twist, when Shea guiltily confesses to participating in the very status quo she’s leading the charge against: “I should be dropping you like you’re hot / But you’re a habit I can’t shake.” There’s a compassion here that saves “Magazine” from being a rote, predictable takedown.
Which is not to say Sløtface are overly precious. Try Not To Freak Out is filled with as many finger-wagging, tell-it-like-it-is moments you could expect from a band who has publicly endorsed Noel Gallagher’s press antics. “10,000 hours of falling asleep to singer-songwriter tunes in my ear / And I think I’ve filled my quota of boys with acoustic guitars / But more are born every year,” Shea sings on highlight “Nancy Drew”—a critique of indie’s disproportionate maleness set against a lite-post-hardcore backdrop.
At the other end of the spectrum is “Pitted”, a celebration of millennial camp that highlights the band’s pure-pop heart: “Bitching on a kitchen counter / In the corner with my girls / Playing marry, fuck, kill / With every actor that’s ever played James Bond.” Try Not To Freak Out is a solid rock record throughout, but at moments like these, it becomes the generational rallying cry Sløtface so desperately want it to be.