Couch Slut – Contempt

cover

Label: Gilead Media

Unsurprisingly considering the band name, Contempt is not always an easy listen. The second album from Couch Slut carries on where previous record My Life As A Woman left off, offering noisy, pain-filled rock that is as anxiety-inducing as it is catchy. It is a record that is filled with elements that, on paper, sound as if they should pull against one another, resulting in an unfocused mess; but on record, they come together to demonstrate a band that understands how cutting and important a little melody can be when searching for musical catharsis.

Whilst the (excellent) artwork may be less in-your-face and NSFW than that for My Life As A Woman, opener ‘Funeral Dyke’ demonstrates that there’s no scaling back of the musical confrontation and blood-letting. The anguished scream of vocalist Megan Osztrosits that kicks off the song proper after a brief introduction sets the raw, honest tone of the album, whilst the band behind her unleash the kind of riffs and movements that anyone with a love of the kind of thing AmRep used to release will be all over. There is dirt and melody here in almost equal measure, and it’s striking that, as confrontational as Contempt is, ear-worms like ‘Penalty Scar’ will stay bouncing around in your head for days.

It’s this melodic, catchy element that makes the darkness of Contempt all the more striking. The melancholic melodies in ‘Snake In The Grass’ contrast beautifully with the otherwise bleak atmosphere of the song, enhancing the impact of both elements considerably.  And there is a directness and honesty to the vocals and lyrics that cuts like a knife, speaking of lived experience and bad memories; the repeated line “Just stare at the floor and try to relax” during ‘Summer Smiles’ being a prime example.

As immediate as the dark, cathartic character of Contempt is though, what really makes the album noteworthy is that there’s also a fearlessly creative edge to the album. Instruments that are atypical for noise rock, including saxophone and accordion, add extra dimensions to the record – most notably with the almost Naked City-esque saxophone on ‘Funeral Dyke’ – and whilst most noise rock albums can be wedded to a single tempo, Contempt is not afraid to shift and change, whether it be the oppressive doom crawl of ‘Folk Song’ or the relatively up-tempo ‘Penalty Scar’. The way that songs can bleed in to one another is almost impressive, adding to the feel that Contempt is an album as a lived experience, a unified whole with no clean divisions between moments. I also adore the way Couch Slut use feedback as an instrument, rather than as just noise; it’s something a lot of noise rock bands will attempt, but few manage with such success.

This creative edge is most evident in closer ‘Won’t Come’ though, a nine and a half minute work of utmost fearlessness that evolves from feedback-drenched torture in to something almost beautiful. It’s a monumental way to end an album, throwing up a host of comparisons – reminding me of Eyehategod, pg.99, and Sonic Youth at different points – whilst not really sounding anything like anyone else. It’s one of the most emotionally devastating songs I’ve heard this year, and is a suitable finale to one of the year’s most caustic, emotionally charged albums.

If ever there was an album that can’t just be dipped in to though, it’s this one. There have been times when listening to Contempt that I’ve had to turn it off and step away from absolutely everything for a few minutes whilst I calm down to avoid a panic attack. There’s catharsis to be found in here, for certain; but if it catches you off-guard, Contempt is as likely to pull you under as it is help find the release you’re striving for. It is an album to be treated with respect and due consideration for your own well-being, because for every moment of melody and guitar-line that will get stuck in your head for days, there is a section that will amplify your anxiety tenfold. But for those times when you’re in the right frame of mind, Contempt is superb.

Contempt is available digitally and on black vinyl via Bandcamp.

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