couch slut - take a chance on rock and roll

Couch Slut: Take a Chance on Rock and Roll (2020)

There are a lot of fantastic independent labels I could have spoken about for Day 13 of the #mayvinylchallenge, and if you take anything away from this entry, it’s that you should support the labels that bring you the music you love. So shower some love on Castle Face, Drag City, Touch and Go, Dischord, RidingEasy…in the meantime I went with a small indie label I’ve been subscribing to for three years: Gilead Media. I’ve reviewed a number of their releases over the years for Nine Circles, and today it’s time for a quick word or two on Take a Chance on Rock and Roll, the stellar 2020 release from Couch Slut.

If you live in New York and are into the metal scene here, you already know that Couch Slut are one of the most ferocious live acts around, due in no small part to the towering presence of Megan O. as the vocalist and fronterperson for the band. “Stage” becomes a flexible term during their shows, as she uses every bit of available space to rage and pummel her way through a set, evoking a primal, cathartic experience that typically leaves everyone emotionally exhausted. In other words, it’s amazing, and seeing the band up front in in their personal space on stage is on of the best musical experiences I’ve ever had. Trying to capture that on record though is a different experience. Their first record My Life as a Woman was a blistering performance that sacrificed a bit of the band’s chops for Megan’s vocals. 2017’s Contempt maybe balanced a little too much in the other direction: kickoff track “Funeral Dyke” was my favorite metal song of 2017, but the album still wasn’t capturing just how incendiary their live shows were.

Enter Take a Chance on Rock and Roll, suddenly and without warning released on Bandcamp Day in May of last year. Looser with a more aggressive production, it feels like the best of the previous two album, and comes closest to capturing that live magic. Opener “The Mouthwash Years” is a doom-inflected stomp through a rotted floor, the main riff pushing you further through the floorboards to the dark cellar beneath. The band sounds enormous, huge props to how guitarists Kevin Wunderlich and Amy Mills can sound so massive and distorted yet seamlessly lock in place with the rhythm section of Kevin Hall on bass and Theo Noble on drums. “Carousel of Progress” transitions into scuzzy hardcore punk, and Megan’s pained screams of “I know it’s on again / I didn’t want it” pierce right into your skull, mixing between the pinched frequencies that open the frenetic “All the Way Down.”

At 29 minutes Take a Chance on Rock and Roll does everything you want without resorting to keeping all the dials at 11. Too often bands hitting this style and this time blitz by whit a look behind them, but what has always made Couch Slut special is how they can turn on a dime, moving from doom to sludge to hardcore to speed/punk without once sounding like anything other than themselves. There is a palpable fear to a track like “The Stupid Man,” just as there is a terrifying rage and sorrow embedded in the heart of “In a Pig’s Eye.” By the time we arrive at the narrative nightmare that is the closing track “Someplace Cheap” we’ve experienced something no other band or album can replicate.

It might not be live, but it might be the closest you can get.

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