Definitely more a wave than a tingle of anticipation exploded when Dutch label, Rock Company, sent a bundle of their latest and forthcoming releases over to us for consideration. Pretty much the sole reason with respect to all artists put forward being the fact it included the new album from Slug Comparison, a proposition which had seduced ears and ardour so totally through a debut full-length and subsequent EP. There was also a tinge of disappointment at the realisation that we had missed a trio of subsequent EPs; investigation showing a combination of technology fail and not being sent them. It was a niggle swiftly dissolved as When You Were Living Here brings all four previous EPs together with new tracks to offer a festival of sound and beauty from one of the world’s most magnetic and rousing songwriters.
Slug Comparison is the solo project of vocalist/guitarist Doug Harrison of Canadian progressive rockers Fen. The release of his first album, the eagerly acclaimed Trails Out Of Gloom in 2014, brought an enthralling collection of tracks which seemed to knowingly tap into personal thoughts, experiences, and desires. That fusion of intimacy and an instinct for contagious imagination and enterprise was even more intense and seductive within the IIa EP of 2017. The new release reveals that the following EPs were just as rich and potent as too are the brand new tracks gracing the first truly majestic and irresistible treat of 2019.
The Slug Comparison sound is similarly nurtured within the progressive rock heart which Fen embraces but Harrison draws on a seemingly leaner but soon proving itself broader palette of sound. Acoustic and electric dexterity entangle with a craft and infectiousness which easily beguiles and invigorates. There is an energy and snappiness to his melody thick ballads and affectionate intimate warmth to tracks with eager boisterousness. As album opener, exactly what to do, epitomises, all songs with their instinctive catchiness share a confidentiality and affinity to creator and listener. The track swings in on a tenacious but controlled stride wrapped in instantly magnetic strands of guitar. The song’s lures only intensify as its rock ‘n’ roll welcomes the ever captivating tones of Harrison and his web of melodiously thick grooves and hooks. A grungy rapacity brings even greater flavour to the contagious theatre gripping ears and imagination, the track always a big favourite at The RR since its appearance upon the IIa EP blossoming further as the introduction to When You Were Living Here.
The following hyperslump arrives with its own individual swing, a trait all tracks carry in their particular gaits and guises. Again a melody just slips from the guitar like fine wine as vocals alluringly unveil the heart of song and writer. There is no escaping the virulent bounce infesting feet and hips, nor locking into its conflict of desire and obstacle as hook and melody ensnare with almost predatory prowess before let some light nestles in ears with acoustic tempting aligned to dark rhythmic intimation. Emotion clad reflection escapes Harrison’s throat just as suggestively, it all uniting in a masterful flame burning into a heated roar as the song’s chorus flourishes in perpetually infectious temptation.
Alone all three tracks make When You Were Living Here a fascinatingly essential proposal with the added guest contributions from the likes of guitarist Sam Levin (Fen), bassist Mike Young (The Devin Townsend Band), Randall Stoll (Congenital Fixation, KD Lang), Jeff Caron (Fen), Nando Polesel (Fen), Dave Young (Devin Townsend) and others add craft and spicing to these and other songs.
Drama lines every note and syllable of next up fine with it, but a theatre of the heart which smoulders within the track’s calm yet fiery rock breath while thoughts offers a relaxed stroll but with an edge to its tone and thought which comes from Harrison’s inner angst. There is an anxiety to each track which easily aligns to their contagiousness as epitomised in the second of the two, the track maybe relatively reserved but as virally catchy as a cold and with its predecessor alone showing that Harrison is as compelling a vocalist and musician as he is a songwriter.
Two tracks within When You Were Living Here are dedicated to the memory of Eric Rose, “Harrison’s former roommate, friend, and creative accomplice”, the first in the album’s title track coming next with the second, beings far away, coming a few tracks later. Both are pure beauty soaked in enchanting melancholy; when you were living here a haunting almost dream like embrace which just touches thoughts and heart, essences even more intense within beings far away, it too a ballad of pensive sadness bound in love and joyful respect which incited a lump in the throat even before knowing its inspiration.
In between, the folkish canter of becoming seduced, its smouldering persuasion inescapable manipulation, and the raw edge rock ‘n’ roll of so ya got a great guitar aroused; both tracks a galvanic persuasion in their unique ways impossible not to lend one’s own exploits too. The latter has something of a Fen snarl to it but only a hue to Harrison’s own design and irritable release.
Bringing further fresh shades and temptation to album and ears, hold of you gently smooches with the senses next, its acoustic contemplation and musing Simon and Garfunkel tinged, whilst the closing pair of purple monkey and one more step respectively beset the imagination and appetite with unfeigned evocative beauty and stirringly animated enterprise amidst almost untamed rock adventure.
They conclude an album that simply aroused body, spirit and soul. The music got under the skin as the lyrical explorations sparked thoughts and heart as if Harrison was tapping into one’s own psyche. When You Were Living Here is simply intimate splendour with melodic nobility sure to be deserving of every ounce of attention and acclaim it will inevitably garner.
When You Were Living Here is out now through Rock Company and also available @ https://slugcomparison.bandcamp.com/
Pete RingMaster 20/01/2019
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