The Pact is the fourth album from Slothrust since their debut in 2012, and it sees their musical evolution continue. Now relocated from Boston to L.A., the trio maintain their raucous, adventurous songwriting but meld it with a more mature and, dare I say, more mainstream sound. As well as indie heads and punks, fans of classic pop will find much to love in this record. ‘60s touchstones like The Beatles and The Who rub shoulders with Iggy Pop and Blondie, while the gentler moments hit the high notes of ‘80s sophistipop. Bryan Ferry and Hall And Oates, along with dozens of rarely heard but hardwired Sunday afternoon FM radio tunes underpin The Pact.
There’s a danger in casting your musical net so widely that the result can come across as desperate and eager to please but Slothrust sound like they are only out to please themselves. Nothing is done half arsed. ‘Birthday Cake’ out-Hole’s Courtney Love while the opening track, ‘Double Down’, burns like a dynamite fuse during the verses but the prechorus defies any expectations that have built up. The whistled hook pops up like a magician’s bunch of synthetic flowers. It’s dazzling, unexpected and it defines this album from the off.
The opening trio of searing alternative rock tunes gives way to a heartfelt and personal record that, in its openness and variety of sounds, reflects the very best albums of the post rock ‘n’ roll era. There’s as much an influence of Beck on The Pact as there is that of The Ramones. The juxtaposition of the punk rock chops and Jon Entwistle bass breaks on the rousing ‘Planetarium’ with the conventional but captivating ‘Walk Away’ is just one instance of what makes The Pact a record for all occasions.
Slothrust have taken the Max Martin songwriting rulebook and shuffled the pages into their own idiosyncratic but readily identifiable order. It’s always humbling to hear masters at work and The Pact is a work of stunning craftsmanship. Technique can be learned but instinct like this is innate.