Album Review

slowthai - UGLY

A beautiful thing to behold.

slowthai - UGLY

Historically, when a beloved artist has announced something of a swerve in direction, the response from long-term fans is split. When Alex Turner opted to open the lounge door into Arctic Monkeys’ suave era, a decent portion of indie diehards checked out of the Tranquility Base Hotel; when Bob Dylan dared plug in his guitar for the first time, he was famously booed by supporters who hadn’t signed up for this sort of newfangled tomfoolery. And though Northampton boy slowthai has always had a punk side to him - his pair of collabs with Mura Masa (2018’s ‘Doorman’ and the following year’s ‘Deal Wiv It’) and Gorillaz team-up ‘Momentary Bliss’ providing some of his most memorable moments - until now he’s been largely associated with the hip hop world.

In the run up to third LP ‘UGLY’, however, Ty has been heralding the release as his ‘alternative’ album. “This album was me trying to emulate the spirit of the brotherhood ethos that bands have,” he declared upon its announcement. ‘UGLY’’s cast of co-conspirators cement the idea: where 2021 predecessor ‘Tyron’ featured the likes of Skepta, A$AP Rocky and Deb Never, ‘UGLY’ brings in Fontaines DC, Jockstrap’s Taylor Skye and Beabadoobee guitarist Jacob Bugden. If there was any last question over slowthai’s intent, omnipresent producer and Speedy Wunderground head honcho Dan Carey is helming the desk.

Clearly, it’s an itch the musician has been wanting to scratch but, more than that, his new embrace of throbbing punk bile and melodic melancholy is the perfect vehicle for an album rooted in neuroses and introspection. Undoubtedly, the delivery might not be all his old fans’ cup of tea, but ‘UGLY’ arrives as slowthai’s most exploratory, varied and exciting body of work yet. Opening with the juddering electronic panic attack of ‘Yum’ - all heavy breathing, stream-of-consciousness lyrics about therapy and pulsing, PVA-like beats - it sets the scene for an album of bold choices. ‘Fuck It Puppet’ is a paranoid, twitchy conversation with the devil on his shoulder and ‘Wotz Funny’ comes on like ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ 2.0, whereas ‘Falling’ is an epic slowburn of catharsis; ‘Never Again’, meanwhile, begins with the crackled croon of Ethan P Flynn before Ty reflects on the jarring 180-turn his life has taken like a next-gen Mike Skinner.

Indeed, if there’s a holy trinity of influences that seem to preside over ‘UGLY’, it’s Skinner, Ty’s pal Damon Albarn and the people’s poet Jamie T. ‘Feel Good’’s sing-song irony feels like something Gorillaz would get animated about, while the album’s Fontaines- featuring title track builds the band’s shoegazey guitars around meditative, lyrically-dextrous verses and a pained howl of a climax. But really, slowthai’s newest is the work of an artist clearly more excited than ever about what he himself can do now he’s booted his own doors wide open. ‘UGLY’ is a beautiful thing to behold.

Tags: slowthai, Reviews, Album Reviews

Read More

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Stay Updated!

Get the best of DIY to your inbox each week.

Latest Issue

March 2024

Featuring Green Day, English Teacher, Everything Everything, Caity Baser and more!

Read Now Buy Now Subscribe to DIY