Breaking: Slothrust - The Pact
Punk elitism has always been a thing, for both good and ill. On one hand it has been partly what keeps the punk scene fiercely apart, a refuge for the alienated, lost, dejected, and hopeful. On the other hand, it can be used as a bludgeon, clumsily batting away friends and allies because of some perceived slight to its equally perceived intellectual superiority. Ultimately the punk should be a bout inclusivity, but apart. Its a oxymoron-ic contradiction, as so much of humanity is.
Not waiting for the punk scene to get its act together, plenty of bands have sprung up that are simply "punk adjacent" or "punk by association" as I like to label it. "Punk by Association" have allowed Murder by Death to garner a fierce and rabid fan base (of which I count myself among) throughout the more extreme genres, despite sounding mostly like Johnny Cash singing over an Ennio Morricone theme. Those Eyeball records roots run deep, as did their innumerable tours with other bands that were punk, despite not being so--The Gaslight Anthem, Reverend Horton Heat, Tim Barry, etc.
"Punk Adjacent" feels like more of a new thing. Bands who clearly tie themselves through attitude, presentation, or some sonic similarities, but on cursory examination seem to hold none of what makes punk well...punk. Furthermore, these largely prototypical indie bands (Hop Along, Waxahatchee, etc) have garnered a huge degree of well-earned critical support for their incredible songwriting.
The latest to join these ranks is Slothrust, sanding down their more punk edges into a more mature, straightforward indie rock act, to similarly impressive results. It's always tough when punks grow up--the scene, with its Punk elitist attitude, wants nothing more, ironically, than bands to stay exactly where they are, which is to say angry, jagged, and a little ragged around the edges. When bands "soften" their sound, there's historically been some degree of blowback. Slothrust have been telegraphing this logical progression for some time, trading in some of those punk creds for softer, more nuanced writing, but...perhaps in the most punk-fashion ever...refusing to shed their Screaming Females-esque gut-busting shredding.
The Pact, then, falls exactly on that same trajectory, logically extrapolated. Where the first few songs come roaring in, beginning quite early in the record there is a long quiet sigh of minor chords and acoustic accompaniments. While the band has lost none of their talent for catchy songs, that break in the momentum (that isn't picked up again until track 9 with "Fever Doggs," before being dropped low again) might be a tough one for many to swallow. Were the scene to mature radically quickly, those within it would find a really delicately and deliberately crafted record that manages to at times rock ("Double Down" which has some killer riffage) as much as roll along nice and easily. It's understadedness may go underappreciated by the punk elites, but its overall appeal is sure to nab anyone else happening upon it.