Music Box: Slut’s “Alienation”

Slut’s Alienation (released in 2013 on Cargo Records) is one of the most persistently favorite albums I’ve ever known. You know those albums that you listen to and you realize you like them and whenever you want to listen to music, it’s the first thing that comes to your mind? And how that, depending on the album, stays this way for some days, weeks, maybe months, but then the really big thrill has gone? I’ve got Alienation in September 2013 (as an especially pleasant birthday present, because I didn’t even know there was a new Slut album) and it’s still the first thing I think of when I want to listen to music. I don’t think that happened before over such a long period of time. The album is a variety of styles, reminding the listener of Radiohead and The Beatles at the same time. But to me, that obviously works, mainly because it’s the music Slut does best but in those different, often electronic, styles. I really loved their previous album StillNo.1, but four years later Alienation hits all the right notes for me.slut-alienationLyrically, Slut always tackle a similar area of themes, which coincidentally, fits to some of the topic I’m interested in: monotony of our daily lives, disillusion, criticism of society and romances that never hold up to their ideals. The album title gives away the basic premise of the album: how we, in our culture, have become alienated from each other and ultimately from our selves. The songs don’t offer solutions and only vague explanations, but are more concerned in painting a picture of estrangement and disenchantment, of people looking for a way out, some desperate, some resigned. It’s thought-provoking and sad, but still danceable, which makes it all the more a great album.

Anybody Have a Roadmap, the first song (one of my favorites), states its issue right in the title. There’s confusion in our society, a lack of direction, despite the constant reminders of where we have to go and what to do. The song dispels that notion and questions the belief that we know where we go and what our purpose is.

If you think you’re home and dry
You’re barking up the wrong tree

It also works as a mission statement, as saying, We went away from what we’re told and have to find our own way now. Go on and drive, they say, we’ll see where we arrive.

Next Big Thing criticizes our hype culture that constantly tells us that something is the best and the greatest and the most spectacular, only to be surpassed by the next big thing. It robs anything of a purpose because nothing is ever about anything. Everything’s so systematic indeed.

Broke My Backbone is probably my favorite song, mainly because it’s so danceable (not that I ever danced to it, but I would if an opportunity arrived), but also because it’s so weird and cryptic and sad. I never had a strong backbone is such a symbolic statement for our culture, following by descriptions of trying to reach something unreachable, being unable to relax or to stand up for what’s right. I don’t like animal stereotypes but describing the inhabitants of our society (you and me and everyone you know) as moonstruck monkeys is brilliant.

All Show again is not subtle just from its title, but it’s still so effective in naming all those cultural role clichés we’re willing to inhabit instead of just being ourselves. A delicate social drinker is again typical for the categorizes we build for ourselves.

How could we ever feel
How could we ever love
How could we ever fight
How could we be alright
When we’re fucked up inside

It’s so tragic if put like that and while I don’t follow the pessimism in the song (because I think we can still move on from that), I appreciate the truth being spoken here. Our culture fucks up our abilities to feel, love and fight, but there are ways to escape that.

The title track Alienation tells the story of young people growing up in our culture, full of ideals and ideas, but being broken down, stuck in their place, unable to move on. Instead they get drunk and write a hundred lovesongs and poems all those years, but it’s all for nothing.

It’s the narrow minded attitude
That made us feel inspired
But in trade for any vision
We got tired

Again, I think you can read it as a testament of the way people who try to change something ultimately fail, because it’s impossible (saveaholics is a great term for that – is that what I am?), but also as a hopeful declaration to break out of this pattern.

Silk Road Blues is the Indian Beatles homage, but if you look at the lyrics, they are probably the most explicit declaration of the band’s ideas.

Seemingly stuck in an overcome system
That claims so much more than we need
So tricky and far from any wisdom
It digs in your pockets far too deep

I’m just an innocent victim of miseducation
A case study coming of age
If you don’t mind I would like to relax
While you tell me that same old story again

That things will loosen their halt
They will burst at the seams
You will see

I wouldn’t know what to add here, since I definitely couldn’t have said it better.

Remote Controlled again wears its heart on its sleeve, but we need more songs like this! Decrying our inability to escape this system, our muted emotions, our willingness to sacrifice ourselves for money that won’t save us.

We’re puppets in an everlasting play
Who we are is what we get paid
And though we never did what we’ve been told
We are all remote controlled

If anyone wants to call that pretentious or naïve or whatever, feel free to do so, but I think those lyrics capture so much of how it feels to grow up in this culture and the resistance you get when you try to change something.

Deadlock calls us

Avaricious arbitrary
Common grounded qualified and ordinary
Too ambitious monetary
Always very mercenary
Voluntary prisoners of themselves

and if you don’t mind the float of adjectives, you see some truth in that. It’s No Surprises for the modern age.

Idiot Dancers is another danceable song that makes fun of people trying to belong and their fear of missing out. Nervous Kind speaks of us being afraid of losing out and that nervous kind of love, which is such a nice metaphor for our state of mind and moves our insecurities away from the fairy tales of romances.

Never Say Nothing is the story of a woman missing out on life and staying silent and concealing her feelings. She never missed the chance to never say nothing probably fits to too many people.

Holy End is the traditional Slut finisher, a slow, quiet song that asks for some peace and quiet after all the troubles are over.

When the party is over
And the lights have turned black
Please carry me back
To my baby’s hands

Again, the album is a fine line between despair, anger and hope, but this is just what I love about it. It’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea and I don’t really share its negativity, but the source of its frustration is close to my heart and that’s as good a place to start as any other.

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