A more polished and distinguished effort than its two predecessors, The Three Man Themes opens with a Sonic Youth-influenced ambient expanse of bass and drums, gradually rising in volume and pitch, rising inexorably to an Unsane-like climax of a thunderous, repeated bassline and finally, after over seven minutes, integrating vocals. Certainly, that sets a precedent for the album, whose temporal -- and for that matter, spatial -- sensibilities are decidedly looser and more open-ended than the two previous albums. Some of the tracks on The Three Man Themes are exquisitely ambient, languorously unfolding like a section from Bad Moon Rising, the sound suspended almost aquatically, but melodic nonetheless. In other words, Slug doesn't employ amorphous, ambient soundscapes as a default mechanism because they cannot play adeptly, or write well -- which they can, but for more artistic purposes. Again, Slug is aural art for the noise rock set. As for the title? Perhaps pointing to the band's use of three bass players? If not that, who knows. As with the cryptic lyrics -- lyrics that make Michael Stipe or Captain Beefheart seem simple and declarative -- sometimes it's better not to ask. This was Slug's final album.
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AllMusic Review by Patrick Kennedy