Sorry For The Late Reply, on Propeller Recordings, is the latest release from Norwegian punk band Sløtface (pronounced Slutface). For those still labouring under the illusion Scandinavian pop music is either ABBA or Death Metal, this quartet will surely be a surprise. The band not only plays tight and energetic pop/punk, their lyrics are pointed and intelligent commentaries on life today.
As Sløtface is probably new to most North Americans perhaps introductions are in order. Haley Shay vocals, Tor-Arne Vikingstad guitar, Nil Jørgen Nilsen drums and Lasse Lokøy bass have been together since 2012. In this time they’ve released a couple of EPs with their first album, Try Not To Freak Out released in 2017. Oh, and in case you were wondering Shay’s family moved to Norway from the US when she was young – hence the non-Nordic name.
Sorry For The Late Reply opens with a roar as “Success” blasts out of your speakers. Overtop of ripping guitars and the driving rhythm section Shay rasps out harsh lyrics critical of a society that is never satisfied with simply being. Be the best you can be, work harder, be a success and all the other platitudes designed to make us believe if we only try a little bit harder we too can join the one per-cent.
Shay’s venom as she itemizes the ways you can be better tells you exactly what the band thinks of this. This is a tight and intelligent attack on a values system which is driving the world into the toilet and killing people. In fact the whole album is a smart, and sometimes poignant, look at all aspects of modern life.
From the wistful “Telepathetic” where you wait for that one special phone call to take you away from it all to the surprisingly romantic and yearning “Luminous” with its description of the fascination of finding somebody new. I’m sure almost everybody can relate to the sentiment expressed by these lines. “I almost forgot what it felt like to stay up all night talking/And maybe if I ask enough good questions I can keep us awake/That way I’ll postpone the end of the day”.
However, Sløtface is the band who recorded their first video on the edge of a fjord with demonstrators against industrial dumping. So you shouldn’t be surprised at the political content on this album.
“Passport” is Shay’s own reflections on her country of birth. “My United States has got to be more than these barks of a small dog/Shouts that make us shake our heads, feel powerless/It can not be this Manifest Destiny, this imagery that keeps flashing across our screens.”
Well the jangling guitars and driving drums and bass make this a potent song, perhaps even more powerful is the melodic “Sink or Swim”. This a beautiful song about climate change with strong and direct lyrics like “This is not the fall I was expecting/Warm winds/It’s too warm for October/It’s too warm for October/It’s not politics it’s sink or swim/It’s not politics it’s sink or swim”.
To young people around the world the issue of climate change has nothing to do with politicians or what plays well in the oil belt – it’s about whether or not there will be a future for them and their children. Sløtface articulates these fears in a way few others have managed. It might not change anybody’s minds, but it gives voice to very real concerns.
Sløtface write powerful and infectious music. Somehow they’ve managed the alchemy necessary to combing punk aesthetic with pop sensibilities to make great, accessible and intelligent music. They sure give this old punk hope for the future.