DGC Records, 1998
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/07/1998
When I first read Slowpoke's online biography, I was intrigued at their history. With two members majoring in film in college, I expected their debut release Virgin Stripes to be filled with some wonderfully bizarre music that would befit a soundtrack to an art house film.
Well, the music is surprisingly wonderful, but it's hardly the freak-out I expected. Dave Gibson and crew bang out twelve numbers that is sloppily fresh, and have created an effort which bodes well for this four-piece.
At times, the energy of vocalist/guitarist Gibson, guitarist Brent Dunham, bassist Corbett Guest and then-drummer Damien Stewart (who has since been replaced by Jerry Saracini) reminds me of Pearl Jam; there is a devil-may-care attitude about the whole project. At other times, the obscureness of the music brings to mind XTC. All in all, not a bad combination and connection to make.
But as much as Slowpoke draws on an artsy background, they don't forget the plight of the common person and the stuggles we all face from day to day. "Dirty Hands," a surprisingly gentle number, relates to starting relationships and the nervousness we all face trying to make that good first impression, while "I Can't See You Anymore" illustrates a couple sweeping together the mess that once was their relationship.
But not everything on Virgin Stripes deals with male-female issues. Some of it is beyond a simple explanation in a printed review, such as the bizarre "go team go" spirit of "Hey! Alma Mater" and the powerfully soft messages in songs like "Belladonna" and "Before The Fight".
And while Slowpoke have a little difficulty holding the whole ball of wax together, especially in the middle portion of the album, Virgin Stripes succeeds on sheer moxie - I can't think of any band that would be willing to take musical chances and try to resurrect the alternative sound that these four musicians do. It's not always perfect, but it's by no means bad - it's just that one occasionally looks for a little more structure to keep one's head focused.
Thanks to production work from Wally Gagel and mixing by Tom and Chris Lord-Alge (who could be some of the most unsung heroes in the music industry), Virgin Stripes has a sound that is crisp throughout, and could very well be one of the albums that rescues the floundering alternative scene from a sea of mediocrity.
Slowpoke do a respectable job on their debut release, and with a little tighter songwriting (which only comes with time), they could very well be the next big thing the scene has been anticipating. But for now, Virgin Stripes is a damn fine start.