The Shivers (Independent)
Slam Dunk’s debut LP begins inauspiciously enough, as the track “Only Fun” opens with a whine of feedback and a single guitar chord. At the 13-second mark, however, all hell breaks loose: a demonic, throat-tearing scream suddenly cuts through the mix, lasting for 10 bloodcurdling seconds while the band explodes into a speedy garage-punk stomp. The remaining two minutes are an adrenalized mix of gleefully sloppy group shouts, ferocious guitar leads, and ultracatchy hooks.
Having sufficiently blown your mind with Track 1, the Victoria four-piece keeps the volume loud and the tempos brisk. The aggressive “Slowdance” belies its title with spiky, palm-muted verses and a barrelling refrain of “My baby baby wanna slow dance/But I never wanna slow down.” Elsewhere, “Do the Slam Dunk” is a sock-hopping roller coaster with a tense breakdown that builds up to a saxophone-assisted banger. It’s garage rock at its most primal, evoking premillennial Modest Mouse in addition to any number of classic Detroit bands.
Most of the album follows a similar formula of scorching guitar and shouted choruses, but Slam Dunk keeps listeners guessing with “Bearcub”, a five-and-a-half-minute foray into tuneful indie pop that’s laden with dense vocal harmonies and poignantly glum lyrics. Even more surprising is “Ratcatcher”, a gentle ballad that douses its twee vocals and tinkling saloon piano in cavernous reverb. These stylistic excursions make the upbeat material seem all the more fiery and prove that there’s a subtle side to the group’s punkish racket.