Couch Slut – Contempt Review

In 2014, Brooklyn’s Couch Slut dropped one of the most harrowing listening experiences of the year in My Life As A Woman, a bleak examination of emotional depravity set to a noise/sludge hybrid. Part of the appeal of MLAAW at the time was the foreboding nature of the material combined with the production value of a bootleg recording of a snuff film – it felt very taboo, like you were definitely listening to something you weren’t meant to hear. In that sense, it’s not the easiest album to revisit. MLAAW demands full attention and can be draining to complete, similar to Sadness Will Prevail or (for me, anyway) the self-titled Alice in Chains album.

So here we are now in 2017, staring down the barrel of the band’s debut for Gilead Media, Contempt, and Couch Slut is almost a completely different band tone-wise than the one that recorded MLAAW despite only having one lineup change (slimming down to a four-piece with the departure of guitarist Amy Mills). Contempt is, in simplest terms, more immediate. The aggressive nature of this album hits as soon as the drums kick in on “Funeral Dyke” and more or less don’t end. And the production, while still just raw enough for a typical noisy-noise enthusiast, provides a clarity that was largely absent before.

This new approach serves to highlight two things: the HUGE riffage from Kevin Wunderlich and the feral delivery of vocalist Megan Osztrosits. Being the only guitarist in the band has given Wunderlich a vast amount of room to explore, but instead of doing that he just hammers out some of the tastiest jams this side of Scattered, Smothered, and Covered. That’s not to say there aren’t creative flourishes, but in essence the riffs, mighty as they may be, are the proverbial engine underneath Osztrosits’ gas pedal.

Speaking of, the vocals here aren’t quite as limited in scope as they were on MLAAW. Osztrosits mainly sticks to the tense wail that Couch Slut is known for, but there are also moments of strained exasperation – almost as if fingernails were being run down her vocal cords as she struggled to get the words out (“Summer Smile” is a prime example). There’s also a moment of sung clarity on “Won’t Come” that brings the song to its unexpected anti-climax — it may be the most apt song title of all time in that regard, with its slow, simmering build that that doesn’t necessarily bring closure the way a listener would prefer.

That feels like a theme amongst these seven tracks, that sometimes the “epiphany” someone has after a trying situation is that maybe things just don’t get better. For all of its fury, Contempt certainly leaves the listener a bit more despondent than when it began. It’s also a gigantic leap forward for a band that was already carving its own knot in the noise-rock woodwork. It’s not any less of a draining ride, but it is one that is a hell of a lot easier to get back in line for.

Posted by Chris Redar

I am domesticated as fuck. Follow me on twitter (at) chris_redar and play video games with me on Xbox - PP5oneDOOdoo

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