Lower Slaughter

What Big Eyes

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

Lower Slaughter's What Big Eyes stands as one of the more immediate debut records. While its instantaneous pull could be attributed to the no-holds-barred aggression and turn-it-up-to-eleven loudness, the truth is that it's a blisteringly great set of tunes. Their first long-player is released through U.K. independent label Box Records, and given that their labelmates include Pigs x7, Terminal Cheesecake, and Gnod, their thunderous pitch comes as no surprise. But much like how the aforementioned bands mix volume with imagination, Lower Slaughter do more than beat the listener into submission with an ear-splitting racket. There is something altogether classic but also decidedly fresh about their music. The noise rock quartet opens the record with "Bone Meal," which touches on almost Black Sabbath-esque riffs, whereas "Tied Down" reverberates Led Zeppelin grooves and lead singer Sinead Young's voice has echoes of Joan Jett's brawny style. In a vaguer sense, the ghost of grunge also pervades the album, but despite the evidence of rock's past on the record, What Big Eyes is too invigorating and characterful to be merely a retrograde collage.

The band consistently plays with the traditions of structure and tempo, as on "Caliban and the Witch," which speeds up and slows down in chaotic and thrilling fashion. "Earthseed" trades regular song structures for a wall of noise that grinds itself down to its bare bones with lurching warped guitars and powerful deliberate skin-thrashing. "Tuberculosis/Bad Choice," which lies at the heart of the record, is the track that experiments most fully with the classic rock setup. The drum kit takes a righteous battering and the guitars unleash a series of nuclear blasts, feedback left trailing and twisted in its wake. The sonic playfulness supports what is an epic call to arms for the disenfranchised, demanding "You take up the streets and burn the bridges." The record rails against those with fortune and power abusing their positions for personal gain -- "Landlord's raising my rent/Employers aren’t raising my wages/My safety net's been worn through in so many places" -- but as rock music's long and rich rebellious history dictates, they won't take it lying down. Young conjures her most effective performance to warn "If I burn you burn," and it's difficult to doubt the legitimacy of her statement. This debut is politically and socially conscious, but it's also an absolute blast. And the final track -- the histrionically drug-fueled party anthem "Coming Up" -- serves as a cheeky reminder to fight for your right to party.

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