From the menacing first strains of "Scum," the opening track on Australian post-rockers Slug Guts' third album, Playin' in Time with the Deadbeat, the journey is a ceaselessly tumultuous one, bobbing back and forth between anguished crawls and hysterically sprinting. This seven-piece band manages to create a lot of sound, with precise production honing in on all the various cacophonous elements, from multiple drums and junkyard percussion to the screaming bray of lead singer Jimi Kritzler, which is often submerged in delay or reverb, but never feels lost in the mix. The band is an amalgamation of many demented influences, borrowing heavily from the possessed churn of the Birthday Party, the frenzied broken post-rock dub of the Pop Group, and even some later goth rock influences. The gruesome swing of "Old Black Sweats" or the title track recalls the swampy swagger of the Gun Club, and occasional blurts of guttural saxophone bring in the slightest hints of late-'70s New York no wave grit, as on "Adult Living," the closest thing approaching a single on the entire album. Slug Guts make no bones about their derivative tendencies, going so far as to deliver a faithful cover of PiL's "Order of Death" early on in the track listing. For the most part, Playin' in Time with the Deadbeat gets by on the sheer force of its bile and the relentlessness of its unholy noise. Slug Guts aren't doing anything the Birthday Party, Christian Death, or even Jesus Lizard precursor Scratch Acid didn't do first, but there's something in the unthinkably damaged character of the songs that suggests the band is coming from a genuinely tormented place, rather than just offering up artifice or dark posturing. Playin' in Time with the Deadbeat is an ugly, ugly beast, and not even all that enjoyable to participate with in the way ugly music can sometimes be. Rather than a catharsis or even an explosive slab of entertainment, Slug Guts have coughed up a visceral collection of desperate howls, sometimes difficult to engage with, but equally difficult to ignore.
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AllMusic Review by Fred Thomas