Review Summary: On the surface, Slide is a canvas for George Clanton's lucid, atmospheric, and mesmerizing production, but on a more careful inspection provides an interesting commentary on heartbreak and childhood nostalgia.
George Clanton - Slide - 5/5 (10/10)
The summer of 2018 was such a magical time period in terms of music. We had Kids See Ghosts, the one-two knockout punch from Kanye West and Kid Cudi. We had the soulful and introspective Mac Miller album Swimming, as well as the return of MGMT with their indie-synth hybrid Little Dark Age. The one album from this period that trumps them all, though, is George Clanton’s magnum opus, Slide. Clanton’s fear, anxiety, self-doubt, and sincerity are well documented on top of a joyful, atmospheric, and precise production in Slide.
Slide kicks off with the hypnotic house-banger “Livin Loose”, a fantastic and dreamy introduction that perfectly immerses the listener into George’s world. While the listener may be enamored by this spacey, hypnogenic production, George delivers a hauntingly beautiful performance, detailing his attempts to cope with rejection and anxiety. We then transition into “Make it Forever”, a groovy and up-beat track with an interesting double meaning at its core. Here, George chronicles,
“How long can I miss you, I want you to know,
The seconds you leave me, are ticking so slow,
I give up”
On first glance, this synthwave space-ballad seems to be about a long distance relationship, or dealing with heartbreak. However, I interpret it as George leaving behind his childhood and his teen years. The reference to the clock ticking shows that George cannot escape the passing of time, as much as he wants to. This makes a lot of sense as a theme considering the next track is a nostalgic and 90’s inspired grunge inspired track, titled “Tie Me Down”. (George is a self-proclaimed 90’s baby, and this track will sound eerily familiar to those familiar with the music of this era). This track is one of my favorites in terms of production as it is a great example of George’s variety and flexibility. George goes for a grimy, lo-fi type aesthetic here and comments again on missing a piece of himself and being held back from what he really wants (which can be interpreted as both the heartbreak and the youth he yearns for).
After this, we shift into the climax of the record's a-side with the shoegaze-based “Dumb”, and by extension the neon and glimmering interlude “Blast Off”. “Dumb” is a melancholic anthem for the decade that follow’s George’s bitterness, anxiety, and lack of self-esteem haunting him.
“Stuck in a ditch, I left you to die
It’s not leavin if I wasn’t there..."
“I feel dumb, I feel lazy,
I like to dream I’m not the crazy one,
But everything I do is wrong”
Here, George details his desire to find the right way to escape his guilt and depression. This theme of trying to find ways to move on from the past, yet failing, is very prevalent on this record's b-side. The titular track “Slide”, and “Monster” kick off the b-side of this record, but I don’t feel these tracks are true b-sides. “Slide” is a multi-dimensional banger with the Blood Orange drum sample and mesmerizing synths, about George growing up and changing, but being “stuck in love” with his mystery partner (which seems to be his childhood innocence). With “Monster”, George provides some more honesty about wanting to move on from this angst, yet succumbing to his inner demons. George’s paranoia about this situation has caused him to come off as a bipolar monster, and has consequently affected his social and love life. Finally, the album reaches its climax and conclusion with an amazingly paced sequence of tracks. “You Lost Me There”, is an ethereal, oscillating opera that has a relentless and captivating energy. This is one of my favorite tracks, and the audience is fully immersed in a TRON-esque vaporwave landscape. Here, George asks his loved ones "where have you gone", and his past self "where have I gone?", as he tries to reflect on his journey here. “Encore” lends itself perfectly as a haunting, yet beautiful transition between “You Lost Me There”, and the final track, “Walk Slowly”. “Walk Slowly” is a remix of the introduction track “Living Loose”, with a bit of a twist on the lyrics and vocal delivery that indicate George’s realization and disgust at who he has become. Clanton's manic and unsuccessful efforts to go back to the past have ended up ruining his life, as sung here.
“I was crazy high
And I wanna say
I was high, I was crazy
To live a wasted life
I'll wait my turn
I'll rush, you'll learn
I'll break my word
And I'll come running
While I walk slowly”
George’s regret for rushing his childhood and his failed attempts to use drugs to cope and escape his pain are detailed brilliantly in this last sequence. Here, George admits for the first time that he has a lot to learn, even if he may stumble and break, and he just has to accept he will never be ready for what life throws him. This is a major growing point for Clanton, and brilliantly wraps up the album both thematically and production wise. Some may call the remix of “Living Loose” lazy or a way to re-use material and extend the album length, but I don’t think this is the case. Instead, this is George’s way to come full circle, to reflect on his origins, and how he has changed and evolved throughout this album. This is George’s way to close the chapter on an era full of regret, angst, and trauma.
Overall, Slide is a classic that masterfully shows George Clanton’s evolution from an early 2010’s new-wave/vaporwave junkie into a sympathetic and introspective musician. George crafts each track with delicate care, using lucid, abstract, and retro-sounding synths as well as nostalgic drum tracks as brushstrokes in order to enamor the listener and paint his canvas. Each song, with the exception of the ambient interludes “Blast Off” and “Encore”, stand out on their own and can be played individually or with the album. Every track on this record has a distinct atmosphere and audience interpretation. What makes ‘Slide’ soar as a concept is how these different takes on retro-futuristic production and synthwave blend flawlessly. These 10 tracks of material converge together without feeling incoherent or disjointed, an impressive feat for an artist like Clanton who has struggled with this in his prior work (200% Electronica being the worst offender). Even the album cover depicts George as an adult going down a kiddie slide, a reference to the theme of George wanting to return to the past. This album art wraps George's themes, ideas, and mood up in a nicely-packaged present to whoever is listening for the first time (or re-listening).
George has always been ahead of the vaporwave curve on production, but in the past he has always been a bit on the shakier side both vocally and thematically (with a few exceptions, of course). Slide, on the other hand, is a slam dunk in this department, demonstrating Clanton’s growth and maturity as an artist. This record stands out from not only the rest of Clanton’s discography, but really anything else in his weird little alternative-vaporpop subgenre that he and his 100% Electronica record label have produced. Slide is a fascinating love letter to nostalgia, a sentimentalized attempt to turn back the clock, and George Clanton's beautiful hell.