I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but something’s been happening lately. Affectations that have been out of fashion for years are slowly but surely ebbing back into the zeitgeist; odd riffs, discordant guitars, manic vocal deliveries. I am, of course, talking about the ongoing post-punk revival, seen most acutely in the rise of bands such as Black Midi and IDLES, the success of which would have seemed unthinkable just five years ago. The outcasts and weirdos are reigning supreme over alternative rock once more, and oh how we’ve missed them.
Exemplifying all of this quite perfectly are Nottingham’s Slumb Party, a five-piece who tick nearly every box one might expect of a modern post-punk effort: rattling drums? Check. Off-kilter guitar leads? Check. An overwhelming sense of tension and urgency? Check, check, check. Despite clocking in at just under half an hour, Spending Money accomplishes all of these, and retains a genuinely original style, too. Squid is the most obvious comparison, although it’s not difficult to hear some Bodega too, and perhaps a dash of Sports Team’s Alex Rice in vocalist Joey Bell’s yelped lyrics.
For a sophomore album, Spending Money feels very lean; all but two tracks come in at less than three minutes, and the result is an experience whereby every track seems to run into the next at full pelt, ideas barely being realised before being upended by the next. There are pros and cons to this way of working. While it gives the first half of the album a sense of kineticism and urgency, cracks begin to show by the start of ‘Sound Off’, the eighth cut. It’s less that the material isn’t up to the standard of the earlier songs- they are- it’s more that there’s only so many times the formula Slumb Party have utilised here can be used before it begins to feel a little staid and homogenous.
Perhaps this is an issue with the post-punk revival itself more than with the band, but when I think of other bands in the scene that have made full-length efforts, they’ve punctuated the more full-throttle stuff with slower material, or have attempted to construct an over-arching narrative. Unfortunately, Slumb Party do neither here, and the album suffers for it. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very powerful tracks: opener ‘Go to Work’ is a pummelling critique of the gig economy, and ‘Existence’ brings to mind Shame with its spoken word. But the rest of the material here is neither jaw-dropping enough to hold the attention, or original enough to stand out. Going into this album, I thought I’d find 29 minutes too short; coming out, it feels nearly too long. Spending Money is an album both blessed and cursed by a very strong opening salvo of tracks, but overall proves a little too exhausting to be truly enjoyable. Of course, perhaps that’s the point. This is, after all, an album about the drudgery of millennial life - Slumb Party aren’t to blame.