The man behind Slug is named Ian Black and he spent some quality time as the bass player in Field Music. Ripe, the first Slug album, sounds unsurprisingly like a Field Music album since that band's Brewis brothers, Peter and David, share production duties and play all sorts of instruments alongside Black. The similarities are many, from the tightly constructed songs and complex vocal harmonies to the inventive arrangements, but it's the subtle differences that make the record unique. Black's songwriting is less convoluted; the hooks are simpler to digest. A track like "Greasy Mind" or "Sha La La" doesn't take time to sink in; it knocks the listener over the head with a powerful hook and doesn't let up. Black's more apt to toss in little sonic tricks that the Brewis brothers might think are too corny, like the bongos and weird vocals on the super-fun "Running to Get Past Your Heart" or the fat synths on "Greasy Mind." Not to mention the steel drums and fretless bass duet "Weight of Violence." This musical tomfoolery speaks to a lightness everyone brings to Slug that isn't always in Field Music's playbook. Black also brings some deadly serious vibes to the album, settling into a morose piano ballad like he's spilling tears on the keyboard ("Peng Peng") and at times sounding like the well-respected music school student he probably was at some point. Mostly though, the record is smart and complicated pop that's just as entertaining as it is educational. While Black is lucky to have friends as skilled and giving as the Brewis brothers, he brings plenty to Slug, and though it's tempting to think that the Brewis brothers' participation is the main draw here, Black proves on Ripe that he's good enough to stand on his own.
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra