Salad Boys: This Is Glue

Music Reviews Salad Boys
Salad Boys: This Is Glue

All of us experience the less than pleasant sensations of anxiety, fear, and uncertainty, sensations that seem to become more and more normalized as we age. There’s the ever-present tick of the clock as you reach the end of your twenties, the dull ache of potential not realized as your thirties pass by in a blur. And so it goes until the existential dread of your impending mortality shrinks to almost a comfort, the only certainty in a most uncertain world.

Sound like one gigantic bummer? It is! But life also has ways of letting you temporarily forget that it’s one big shitshow, ultimately balancing things out to a bearable normality. If I said these are thoughts I had after listening to This is Glue, the sophomore album from New Zealand outfit Salad Boys, you might imagine it to sound like one gigantic bummer. But much like life, This Is Glue cushions the blow of frontman Joe Sampson’s less-than-cheery observations within fuzzed-out, lo-fi garage guitars, the sounds of jangling indie-pop circa 1987 and Sampson’s own calm-cool-collected vocals.

Recorded at Sampson’s home studio, the lo-fi production suits the mood, recalling the melancholy charm of indie acts like The Chills and The Bats. “Blown Up” kicks things off with Krautrock rhythm and an aggressive flurry of guitars, as Sampson laments the pressure to constantly “concentrate and utilize our time.” “I’m useless to to myself and doomed to follow/Someone else,” he sings on “Psych Slasher,” the punk energy and triumphant vocals somehow turning all that angst into a good time. “Scenic Route To Nowhere” takes things in a Parquet Courts direction, the angular guitar lines emphasizing Sampson’s mention of “anxiety,” “choking” and “stumbling.”

It’s the alternation between this punchier group of tracks, and the gentler, more wistful, 80s indie-pop vibe of songs like “Right Time” and “Dogged Out” that makes this album so dynamic. Both moods only emphasizing the Gen X, every-dude feeling of Sampson’s dispirited lyrics and weary delivery.

Not every song is a knock-out: the repetitive and flatlining “Choking Stick” has little to offer other than the line “It’s little wonder you’re in the slump/You don’t get the needs to your wants. But when they get it right, it’s sublime. The jangling “Exaltation” has a refreshing, open-air quality that sounds like a slow walk on a brisk day, and the best guitar hook of the album. The truly depressed lyrics of “Under The Bed” are given anthemic treatment, with Sampson’s impassioned vocals and the soaring chorus turning less-than inspiring words like, “stuffed,” “stuck” and “waiting” into valiant battle cries almost triumphant in their passivity. By the end, he’s even given up writing the lyrics, singing, “I can’t hold off/I can’t…something similar.”

Listening to This Is Glue feels like coming to a place of acceptance, a place of settling, a place of growing up. Your illusions and your innocence may be shattered, but there are ways of getting by. It’s certainly a departure from the shaggy surf-rock of their debut, Metalmania, but one that feels natural and deftly executed.

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