Slowthai - Ugly Music Album Reviews

Slowthai - Ugly Music Album Reviews
The British rapper’s third album is likely to be his most polarizing: He trades rapping and electronic beats for ballads and rage rock. The results are largely underwhelming.

Good luck trying to ignore Slowthai. Over the course of his short yet eventful career, the British rapper has never shied away from bold choices, audacious pronouncements, or confrontational antics. He’s the type of guy who can walk into an awards show as the “hero of the year” and become the most hated man in the room by the time he’s escorted offstage by security. This antagonistic stance hasn’t just made headlines, though: From the moment he dropped the hard-nosed “T N Biscuits” in 2018, it was clear Slowthai would become one of the biggest personalities in English rap. He was quickly named the “voice of a generation” (he seems to prefer “Brexit bandit”) after dropping his debut album, 2019’s Nothing Great About Britain, which addressed the UK’s overlapping political crises through street-level tales. The follow-up, 2021’s TYRON, felt like an intentional retreat—more personal, less political—though it was unusually focused for a double album and only served to fortify his fanbase. With album three, the rapper born Tyron Frampton squares up for a fight with that very fanbase. What better way to upset rap fans than with a rock record?

Two caveats worth mentioning about Ugly: The record doesn’t abandon beat music entirely, and there’s plenty of precedent for Slowthai’s detour into rock. He was one of the first British rappers to embrace the blown-out, aggressive sounds of SoundCloud rap, a movement with plenty of punk in its DNA. He’s peppered his albums with throbbing post-punk instrumentals, jumped on stage with IDLES, and even covered Elliott Smith (poorly). So while the kids moshing at his shows won’t be scandalized to hear guitars on these songs, they may be surprised by the album’s overall shape. Ugly features as much singing as rapping, a number of slower ballads, and little of the grimy futurism that defined Slowthai’s compelling early work.

Slowthai takes a lot of big swings on Ugly and a few of his experiments connect. Album opener “Yum” is the closest thing here to a traditional Slowthai song and its bacchanalian subject matter (“I won’t stop ’til I’m in a coma”) and industrial gallop play to his strengths. “Feel Good” aims for the dumb fun of mall punk and hits the mark with chipmunk vocals, a bouncy bassline, and a repetitive chorus. “Sooner” splits the difference between synth-pop and sock hop: The jaunty instrumental undercuts Slowthai’s self-deprecating muttering and lends the album some welcome verve.

As a rapper, Slowthai has plenty of technical ability and charisma but the same can’t be said for his singing. One of his signature moves is to change the pitch of his voice mid-line, a trick that makes for an unmistakable rap delivery but sounds like poor pitch coming from a singer. The result is that many of the songs on Ugly feel almost like karaoke performances. “Falling” aims for Pixies but is sorely missing Black Francis’ impassioned mania (the title track, which features Irish post-punks Fontaines D.C., pulls off this sound more successfully). “Tourniquet” answers a question no one asked: What would a Radiohead ballad sound like with hardcore vocals? “Never Again'' weaves a tale about a chance encounter with an ex that ends in tragedy—it’s clearly meant to be the record’s poignant centerpiece. But the song, which features choruses sung by Ethan P. Flynn and verses rapped by Slowthai, feels disjointed and awkward, like an imaginary, shelved collaboration between David Bowie and Mike Skinner.

Ugly’s worst song isn’t even a rock song. On “Fuck It Puppet,” Slowthai contorts his voice into various shapes while rapping over a dry, boom-bap beat. But the song’s conceit—Slowthai engaging in a shouting match with the suicidal voice in his head—brings to mind his least flattering comparison: Eminem. In the years following Slowthai’s debut, SoundCloud rap mutated into “rage rap,” a subgenre that dials up the (almost exclusively) male aggression in a manner that’s clearly indebted to Slim Shady. But that sound is now already past its sell-by date and its principal architects are moving on. It would be perfect timing for an artist as thoughtful as Slowthai to interrogate or at least complicate rap’s infatuation with male anger. Instead, on songs like “Fuck It Puppet,” he just lets the rage flow.

This lack of vision is what makes Ugly so disappointing. Slowthai’s work as a rapper is far more dynamic and vital; there’s no real sense for why these songs needed to be rock songs. On Nothing Great About Britain, Slowthai’s anger—against institutions, injustices, and his own rough upbringing—felt righteous and representational. Here it feels vague and nihilistic (“I’m sick of thinking there’s a reason I’m here/We’re just puppets in a simulation,” he muses on “Ugly”), far less nuanced than the reflective bars on 2021’s TYRON. It’s possible to make heavy music that directs its anger toward worthy targets, tackles introspection with maturity, or doesn’t rely on rage for catharsis at all. Ugly sounds like something far less interesting: the sort of generically angsty guitar music that only a ’90s major label executive could love.
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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Slowthai - Ugly Music Album Reviews Slowthai - Ugly Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on March 15, 2023 Rating: 5


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