The Sweet Black Bear

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The Sweet Black Bear Review

by Eduardo Rivadavia

Detroit's Slot spent much of their career out on the fringes of the alternative rock nation, recording a series of EPs filled with sonic references to the era's leading bands, yet showing too much versatility to find any single category capable of containing them, and, by extension, any specific audience they could attract as their own. By the time Slot recorded their first full-length, The Sweet Black Bear, in 1995, their time was effectively up, and the album was left unreleased, seemingly forevermore. But when Slot guitarist Billy Rivkin -- whose wife, vocalist/bassist Sue Lott, and drummer Eddie Alterman completed the band's lineup -- succumbed to cancer in 2004, a cadre of Motor City-based music professionals associated with Small Stone Records took it upon themselves to dig up this LP's masters and finally make it available to the public. And so it was that The Sweet Black Bear arrived in 2006, like a smoking silver DeLorean, ready to whisk aging Gen-Xers back to the decade that defined them via Slot's deliberate grooves, quivering power chords, and hauntingly sweet vocals. From start to finish, the album's songs ebb and surge like dark gray waves upon Lake Michigan: too restrained to surf away on; too forceful to paddle out of -- and positively begging listeners to give in to their irresistible undertow and be swept away on memory's tides. Among the notables, "Orchid Taster" and "You Made Me Do It" take the psychedelic sludge of early Soundgarden with a fistful of downers; "Crushing Your Head" is pure My Bloody Valentine, minus the visit to the ear doctor one day later; and "An Evening at Eastpointe" drains the excess testosterone from Stone Temple Pilots' "Vasoline" while proving just as hypnotic. On their lonesome, not a one of these even sniffs at commercial potential that might contradict Slot's unheralded mid-‘90s demise, but as part and parcel of The Sweet Black Bear‘s whole, their powers are magnified into a surprisingly seductive listening experience, and ultimately offer a fitting tribute to the Detroit rock community's fallen family member.

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