Slip: Out of a Jam
Lazy-i: Nov. 17, 2006
w/ The Lovely Feathers, The Bon Savants
Saturday, Nov. 518 9 p.m.
13th & Martha
thing that the Boston/Montreal trio The Slip wants to make perfectly
clear: It isn't a jam band.
tagline has hung over the band like a dead, rotting albatross
for years, thanks to their beginnings in the early '90s when the
band was known for its experimental avant-jazz stage sessions
-- i.e., jamming.
days are long gone, which anyone could tell by taking a listen
to the band's just-released Bar/None debut, Eisenhower.
Instead of wonky instrumental hippy noodling, the album consists
of a tight set of intensely melodic, layered indie rock that recalls
bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Built to Spill and Wilco. But
despite that, The Slip continues to be bundled in with all those
dingy jam bands.
hounds us," said drummer Andrew Barr while huddled -- along with
the rest of the band -- around a speaker phone in a Holiday Inn on
Hollywood Blvd., mere hours before their set at LA's Knitting Factory.
been a band for over 10 years now," said singer/guitarist Brad
Barr, Andrew's brother. "When we started out, we were still
figuring out what kind of music we were making. It's our love of
jazz that brought us together, though it's not cool to admit that
these days. We weren't devoted to punk or jazz or rock, so we kind
of let it all creep into our live show, and that's how the (jam
band) label probably got adhered to us. We never felt akin to that
direction, however, shifted five or six years ago, when bassist
Marc Friedman stumbled onto music from a Pacific Northwest indie
rock icon. "When I discovered Built to Spill, I found a different
universe I had never heard before," he said. "I'd gone
from listening to improv music by Coltrane and Bill Evans, to one
day putting on a Built to Spill CD and saying, 'That's what I want
us on to Built to Spill," Brad said, "Bands like Wilco
and Built to Spill come from a punk-country place, but once I started
digging into that stuff, it occurred to me that it's all modern
electric folk music. It didn't seem that different to me than what
Van Morrison or Dylan was aiming for. Blending that style with our
writing style was natural. It wasn't a conscious shift, really."
The Slip take recognized indie reference points and bend them in
a new direction that acknowledges their jazzy past. Opening track
"Children of December" is a sweet, back-beat meditation
on birthdays filled with personal shout outs done to a tune that
would be right at home on the last Death Cab album. Follow-up track
"Even Rats" leans heavily on roaring guitar riffage and
intricate melodies reminiscent of Keep It Like a Secret-era Built
to Spill. While lush set pieces, like the soaring "If One of
Us Should Fall," recall Trip Shakespeare or its brethren, Semisonic.
The only time the band retreats to its instrumental-only days is
on the proggy "The Original Blue Air," which sounds like
King Crimson meets 90125-era Yes.
gone from listening to improv music by Coltrane and Bill Evans,
to one day putting on a Built to Spill CD and saying, 'That's
what I want to do.'"
don't mind being called an indie band, but I do mind being
called a jam band."
said adhering to a more stringent song structure hasn't dampened
the band's ability to stretch out on stage. "Ten years ago
we were doing a lot of soloing and avant-garde whatever," Friedman
said. "When we're playing songs off the new album, there's
so much more going on musically. We may not be ripping into a solo.
Instead, there are a lot of textures and attention to detail, with
enough room to be as improvisational as we used to be."
The Slip comes to indie rock at a time when the term is beginning
to show signs of age. The band, however, seems proud to be associated
with the ambiguous musical movement.
mind being called an indie band, but I do mind being called a jam
band," Friedman said. "The term 'jam band' has a horrible,
underlying theme to it that makes you want to run away and grab
a fire hose. It claims to be open and free and spontaneous, but
the music sounds the same, and listeners approach it all in the
same way. Perhaps the drugs induce that feeling. Indie rock just
has a nicer ring to it."
and the band would prefer to avoid being lumped in with any trend
or style. "They all eventually die out," he said. "In
five years, people will be sick of the term indie rock."
Published in The Omaha Reader Nov. 15, 2006.
Copyright © 2006 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.