Total Slacker – Parallels
When I’m listening to an album with the intent of reviewing it, oftentimes I’ll try and imagine what a particular singer/songwriter/musician is putting into any given section of any given song, and whether I’m right or wrong, I can usually come up with some semblance of meaning. Early on, this was not one of those times. Now I don’t know Tucker Rountree at all – guitarist/vocalist of Brooklyn trio Total Slacker – but in trying to figure out his band’s latest album, Parallels, I just couldn’t seem to escape the Doctor Who-like temporal maze in which I found myself.
Please don’t mistake my confusion for dislike – anything but, actually. Parallels, the band’s third album, is 11 tracks of pure fuzz rock nostalgia – or slimegaze as their Facebook page proclaims. This album immediately brings me back to those wonderful (read: awkward) high school days of the mid 90s and bands like For Squirrels (“Mighty K.C.”, anybody? No?) and more specifically a local band from the next town over called, ironically enough, The Fuzz. Tracks like the opener “Turn On The Lights” instantly bring me back to those nights hanging out at the local V.F.W hall with my friends, living out our rock and roll dreams.
The real meat of the album is in what comes next. Parallels, while simultaneously drawing thematically from mid-90s alternative rock and The Police-hued bass lines, is full of introspection and longing and ultimately speaks to the self-imposed existential crises of love and loss and growing older – “Don’t Want to Be Alone” and “Don’t Ever Fade Away” come to mind here.
In between all of the nostalgia-fueled mental road trips and existential gymnastics, there is one track that I keep coming back to time and again – “Community College Hero”. This song is 3 exceptional minutes of social and cultural critical commentary that combine everything Rountree, Lydia Gammill (bass), and Mattie Segal (drums) do well. Rountree’s vocals on this track are almost robotic, lending more to the air of despair for the song’s subject. There’s no place for you in this country / Except for fast food jobs, and working for country-club snobs.
By the end of the album, and repeated listenings, I’m leaning more towards Bill & Ted than Doctor Who as the narrative through-line, which leaves me with just one final thing to say to Rountree, Gammill, and Segal: