Review Summary: I wasn't quite ready for this...
Slick Shoes has a always been a pretty decent band. I really enjoy all their records, and I think most people who are aware of them probably think their relative success in the 90s and early 2000s - while never reaching the stardom that some other punk bands saw during that time - was probably well-deserved.
Maybe part of the reason why they never reached blink-182 levels of success though, is because Slick Shoes always had a little more depth to their sound, especially later in their career. The vocal melodies are just a little too varied, the guitar lines a little too intricate to be able to call them a “pop-punk” band without feeling like you were doing them a bit of a disservice. Some fans, like myself, really latched on to these characteristics of their sound, and that’s why I consider their final pre-breakup album, Far From Nowhere
, to be their best record.
Well then, surely a follow-up 17 years later wouldn’t keep going in that same direction, right?
Wrong. I went into Rotation & Frequency
with tempered expectations, expecting a fun skate punk record with some nice callbacks to the band’s glory days. What I got instead was one of the best punk albums I’ve heard in recent years. The lineup this time is the same from the fan-favorite Rusty
, joined by Jackson Mould from the Far From Nowhere
era. Now I’m not sure if I can speak for all Slick Shoes fans, but this is the best lineup I could’ve asked for.
This album builds on everything that Far From Nowhere
pointed toward and then some. Mould’s presence is clearly palpable, as the guitar work on this album really takes it to that next level and blew me away. Forget lead lines having some intricacies, this time around the shredding is downright technical, somehow managing to be so without losing any of the punk flavor that is often lost with more complex guitar parts. Seriously, just listen to some the leads here, like the chunky riffage that opens “Carry This”, or the soaring melody in the chorus of “The Worlds Were Mine”. Thankfully the songs don’t slow down either. 17 years later seasoned drummer Joe Nixon blasts out gallop beats as effortlessly as ever, keeping up with Mould nicely.
The vocals here are also great, and like the guitars they just reach that next level in quality that the band’s previous work hinted at. The melodies here feel thoughtfully constructed, and they almost have an ethereal or worshipful quality to them, which at times makes the record feel like a rather unique sort of “gospel skate punk” that works wonderfully.
Ultimately, Rotation & Frequency
doesn’t sound like it came from a seemingly dead band that hasn’t put out an album in 17 years, and I feel like I don’t even know where it came from. But one thing’s for sure: Slick Shoes just delivered their best album.