Milwaukee is hurting for rock and roll. Despite the positive state of local punk rock and (evidently) heavy metal, and there being no shortage of “indie rock” bands clustered beneath the catch-all classification, the city presently boasts very few acts who can honestly call themselves genuine, honest-to-goodness, straight-up rock bands. As Hot Coffin, Whips, Midnight Reruns, Disguised As Birds (RIP!) and a scant few others have sought to fill the gap in recent years, Slow Walker has quietly fought against the strong currents of sub-genre standardization for more than five years by doling out a steady diet of driving guitars, muddy bass lines, and altogether meat-and-potatoes musicianship that’s utterly immune to trends or listeners’ whims.
While Slow Walker hurried out the gates with the release of three albums between 2011 and 2014’s self-titled record, the band has stood still and remained quiet of late. That silence will be broken this weekend, when the group casts two cassettes into the world—a collection of previously unreleased old material called Hot Walks and a satisfying batch of songs dubbed Robert Plantain’s Grunge Lords—at Circle-A Cafe Friday night. The latter tape is essentially a nine-pack of loud, no-nonsense rock and roll that manages to shine without a shred of overdubbing, nary a gimmick, nor so much as a particle of bullshit.
Album opener “Shaman” starts with a walking bass line and disjointed strumming before swelling to a dense crescendo of hypnotic fuzz and distorted shouts that bleed into other tracks, including the pulverizing and rhythm section-highlighting “Leave It To The Device,” the faintly Obits-esque “Clown,” and the heavy seven-minute jam “Dead Man Walking.” Aside from the Obits comparison and the rare (but welcomed) intensity one has come to expect from bands like Young Widows or METZ, …Grunge Lords sparingly nods to Queens Of The Stone Age (“Wolf At The Door”) and, fittingly, ’90s era grunge (“Bug Man Blues” and “Lynyrd’s Farm”) over the course of 40-plus minutes. Light momentary likenesses aside, though, Slow Walker’s latest both brazenly pushes the band’s catalog and Milwaukee’s reeling rock and roll identity forward with nine deliberate blows.
Before Slow Walker releases its double cassette Friday (via Stale Heat), listen to Robert Plantain’s Grunge Lords now, only at Milwaukee Record.