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Slovenly's third album doesn't quite pack the wiry power of its predecessor, Thinking of Empire, but it is nonetheless a potent blend of the quintet's offbeat insightfulness and guitar majesty. The band takes a softer tack on Riposte (the title meaning a quick, sharp return in speech or action), mixing acoustic guitars with their staple electric lines and succeeding spectacularly on the memorable instrumental "Emma," though songs like "Enormous Critics" (in which singer Steve Anderson advises "Don't take yourself too seriously") still prick the skin with enough force to make goosebumps appear. Riposte is the first indication that Slovenly was beginning to be drawn to longer, more abstract washes of sound -- an approach that would manifest itself on the two efforts that would follow, 1989's We Shoot for the Moon and 1992's Highway to Hanno's -- but their still-strong attraction to the straightforward art-punk of bands like Wire keeps the record from slipping down the hill of indifference. The tangling guitars of songs like "The Way Untruths Are," "Not Mobile," and the record's highlight, the stinging "Prejudice," make this album a close second to Thinking of Empire within the Slovenly canon, and a must-own for serious fans of 1980s indie guitar scholars.

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