Make It Worse
Don't You Hate Pants?, 2008
REVIEW BY: Julia Skochko
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/24/2008
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The opener, "Midnight Blues," is a great example of how the group shines -- not by reinventing the tractor, but by giving it a fresh set of racing stripes. Its folksy country gains depth and nuance from a mournful viola and cello. The group's lyrical strength is also immediately apparent. Their songwriting is plainspoken but never trite, no mean feat in the Post-Garth Epoch. The tales are as old as time (dashed hopes, dying towns, evil-hearted women), but they're told with originality and simplicity.
Make It Worse is musically genuine as well. The title track is straight banjo-picking bluegrass, an unironic love note to rural music. Tracks like this, the deceptively sunny "Never Learn" (“Never been much good at getting much better than by") and the barn-burning "Fight 'Til You Die" are keen-eyed and tightly orchestrated. Jeremy Bentley's sound is well-mixed but unfortunately a bit homogeneous. With the right energy and an open-minded crowd, these songs would absolutely kill. "Fight" in particular brings to mind Mohawks silhouetted against crumbling steel mills…in other words, twang with attitude.
While the PBR-hoisting anthems are fun, the real intimacy's in the slow dances. The wistful, whiskey-blurred "Old Song" aches like a war wound (“Sometimes you don't get a chance to recover after everything you've been through"). "Dancin' Shoes" is slight but charming, featuring airy violins and slightly weathered female accompaniment. "That's Me"'s warm harmonica and shaggy rhythm feel like a perfect pair of ripped-to-hell jeans. Like many tracks, though, it could close a little more emphatically (songs tend to trail off rather than burn down).
Like the album, the title Make It Worse has a hint of wry country charm. It's a solid disc which really highlights the group's potential. It's a given that Slimfit can make it better -- the question is how. Were they to aim for a harder Southern rock vibe, tracks like "Pony Up" and "Which Way You Gonna Go" (which contains a fantastic little burst of fuzzbox distortion) hint that they might give the Drive-By Truckers a run for their money. On the other hand, the group's more rustic numbers are delivered with joy and authenticity. They've got chops in both rock and roots… it's a question of which path to take. On the other hand, like a certain
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