Thinking of Empire is Slovenly's first mature work, a flowering of art-punk influences (Wire, Television) and California punk mindset (Minutemen) that is one of the great lost classics of the 1980s. Listeners struggled with Slovenly's prickly sound chiefly because of the monotone delivery of singer Steve Anderson and his tendency to toss off lyrics (ie "Unadorned, stripped in shadowless thought/Away from glibness/Away from glazed and glorified versions of dilapidation") that were closer to T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land than Black Flag. After getting a handle on Anderson's delivery, however, it's easy to hear how magnificently the singer sways with the sideways lashings the shifting layers of guitars concoct. The band's three guitarists alternate on bass and six-string electrics, applying a bracing angularity to songs like "Distended," "Cartwheels of Glory," and "At Sea," which fasten driving riffs to becalmed, drifting interludes, resulting in musical mazes that, when solved, are endlessly rewarding. Thinking of Empire is the link in the SST label chain that connects the punk of Black Flag and the Minutemen to the instrumental art-damage of groups like Pell Mell. Rarely has the beauty of post-punk's gray areas been so strikingly captured.
AllMusic Review by Patrick Foster