The Sluts, with Drew Black and the Dirty Electric, Capture the Flag, and Alien Jones
Riot Room, Kansas City
Saturday, February 1, 2014
The Sluts is the kind of band you probably wouldn't take home to your parents, and on Saturday at Riot Room, the group showed why. Over the course of about 45 minutes, the Sluts tore through a taut and visceral set of material from its self-released album Virile
, filled out with some other odds and sods.
The focal point of the group, lead singer and guitarist Ryan Wise, pairs his thick and steely guitar tone with a tenuous wail that falls somewhere between 1990s icon Kurt Cobain's tortured rasp and early aughts icon Jack White's high screech. That's a telling comparison because the Sluts often feel a bit like Cobain fronting a louder and nastier rendition of the White Stripes. Wise's meaty riffs draw from a wellspring of 1970s punk and metal without ever sounding completely derivative. At the same time, drummer Kristoffer Dover seemed like he may be the reincarnation of John Bonham as he pummeled his way through each volatile song.
Early set highlights included album tracks "Loose" and "I Don't Mind," both virulent mixtures of hook and snarl, and the kind of songwriting the duo seems to thrive on. On the latter, Wise sounds simultaneously bemused and bored when he groans the lyrics: I don't mind wasting time with you/Making eyes at you/All day long.
Soon after on the Alice Cooper-esque "Die," Wise waxed poetic about a lover while crooning: It ain't like I hate you girl/I want you to die,
and the conceit reached its logical conclusion. Throughout, the lyrics were filled with these sorts of biting and dark quips.
The band didn't rest long between songs or mince words, except when given shots by an eager audience member. For most of the set, particularly the last half, the crowd was similarly as raucous as the band. By the time the Sluts played unreleased track "Linger," a small group of sweaty fans were writhing at full force in front of the stage. In recognition, Wise noted that several people had traveled from the band's home base of Lawrence for the show.
Closing out the first album and the night's set were two simply titled tracks that are arguably the strongest in the Sluts' arsenal. "Friends" is a wry dissection of aging and adulthood placed over the top of an alternately rhythmic and melodic riff. When the song broke midway through, the crowd roared in anticipation of the bluesy riff that rose up once again to begin another verse. Following quickly on the heels was the chugging grunge of "Victim," presenting Wise at his most jilted and self-effacing. Lyrically, it's never clear whether he hates his ex or himself more, a sentiment the average fan can probably empathize with.
Luckily, the band decided to do a cover as a brief encore of sorts. Again, their choice of songs was pretty indicative of their influences, and it didn't seem at all out of place when the opening notes of the Stooges' classic "I Wanna Be Your Dog" began blaring through the speakers at either side of the Riot stage.
In total, the band is a comparable mix of early aughts "the" bands and vintage 1970s and 1990s rock. Fans of each era should be able to find something to bob their heads to live. In their recordings, the Sluts sound like they're still honing their sound, but in person they seem to have perfected their stage presence over the past couple of years.
This was billed as an album-release show, but oddly there didn't seem to be an LP or CD for sale. That's pretty punk, though certainly not unexpected coming from the Sluts. They wear their influences and predilections on their sleeves, and it never feels anything less than honest.