Album Review: SLUFF by Naked Giants

Naked Giants debut album on New West Records, SLUFF, is a powerhouse rock record that delivers with every track. The Seattle-based trio, comprised of guitarist/vocalist Grant Mullen, bassist/vocalist Gianni Aiello, and drummer Henry LaVallee, has been having a great year, performing with Ron Gallo on a split EP and touring with Car Seat Headrest. All this after just releasing their EP R.I.P., which included songs like “Ya Ya” and “Twist,” that feel like 70s psychedelics adapted for modern ears. Sluff expands their sound to new edges — the twelve-song LP feeling like a car chase, a clean getaway for the rising trio.

From the screeching guitars of “Dead/Alien,” one gathers that this is not the typical album that builds to the punch. The listener is tossed in with no warning, all three instruments maxed out on sound, and the rebellious lyrics, “I can make this song if I want to/ stayin’ up all night to feel alright/ I might be dead/ or alien?”. From there, the energy doesn’t stop, building even as they cry “Then you bring yourself down!” Their songs range from seven-minute rock anthems like “TV,” to quick, hyperactive grinds like the title track, “SLUFF.”

“Slow Dance II” is a highlight of the album, failing to keep its promise by about a minute in, where the rock n’ roll bop facade drops and they bring back their intense shredding, turning the chill waltz into a passionate breakup ballad. Mullen shows off his falsetto while going through several transitions, from relaxed to ear-piercing and back. It’s a bit of a respite before the high-octane set of songs, building to “Dat Boi,” a surprisingly earnest ballad. The heavy rock majority of the album is capped by “Easy Eating,” a remaster of a track off of the R.I.P. EP. It’s newly-done sheen is emblematic of the bands’ search for perfection. The tracks have been polished and refined to become effortlessly stylish, while retaining their rough-around-the-edges attitude. The album flows seamlessly, and only pauses to catch a breath once or twice.

SLUFF closes on “Shredded Again,” an eight-minute cooldown, much-needed after the intense, well, shredding. It switches to acoustic on the guitar and features group vocals and a rhythmic drum machine as percussion, and mostly repeats the line, “I guess I’m shredded again,” giving the impression of the nap after a busy day, the hangover after a night partying.

The wide range of influences between the trio can be heard in their often unpredictable and reckless sound. “When we’re jamming it’s like it’s being pulled apart and pushed together in so many different directions. And I think that’s a good thing,” says Aiello in a press release. Their performance style is even more reflective of their odd chemistry. Their live shows feature Mullen and Aiello trading vocals and shredding their respective instruments (who says bassists need to stay out of the way?) and LaVallee bringing the energy with his brash drumming style.

Naked Giants aren’t a typical band, in that they combine so many ideas into one that the only way this can come out is an explosion with each track, stripped of needless fluff and given back raw and exposed. The result: a wild rollercoaster of sound and tempo. I would highly recommend seeing them live, to fully appreciate their use of a stage as a platform to show off their licks. Their songs are like concentrated ideas, intelligent uses of the medium, and perfectly concentrated to maximize shredding potential. After SLUFF, the message is clear: Naked Giants isn’t slowing down.

SLUFF is available now on New West Records.

Photo from Chloe Corriveau.

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