by Janii Yazon
Slack Tide, a band that identifies strongly with the East Coast, displays a universal understanding of music, its functions, and its possibilities. Their debut album Water Monkey dedicates itself to the inconsistencies of identity. It finds home throughout New England; the band moves across state lines as seamlessly as they switch between styles, channeling influences from reggae to blues. The East Coast–centered band shows a knack for versatility while still staying true to their rock core. An obscurity in their lyrics, likely caused by sacrificing clarity for sentiment, is easily compensated for by mastery over genre and coherence.
“Monday Morning Blues,” a blues track which stands out from its more loyal-to-rock companions, narrows the scope on identity to the distinct confusion tied to waking up on one of those dreaded Monday mornings. The sound at the start of the song is disjointed, with the keys and guitars exploring their prevalence in the instrumental and eventually coming together to unleash a contagious, classic blues hook. In one of Water Monkey’s most brilliant moments, the track mimics the forced adjustment of eyes to sunlight and the insistent throbbing of a weekend-borne hangover.
While the aversion to Monday mornings is something universally felt, Slack Tide commits this album to the New England experience—appropriate for an East Coast band. In the album’s foot-tapping, head-shaking opening track, “Barefoot Professor,” the chorus announces that it’s “time to make these people move, swingin’ to a seaside groove.” This seaside, however, isn’t the one of fiery passion and laid-back relaxation that dominates popular music today. Instead, Slack Tide has released music as ever-changing as New England weather in its unpredictable portrayal of familiar landscape: blues riffs to describe a homework-eating dog, reggae rhythms to narrate traveling up to “good ol’ New Hampshire.”
“The Line,” a guitar-driven track with cruising groove, establishes New Hampshire as home, the place to connect with friends and have a dangerous, good time. “Lucy,” with its enchanting guitar climbing and falling freely and background vocals as chillingly melodic as winter winds, looks at Maine with wistful eyes. And in “Slanted House,” another personal favorite off the album, the band speaks directly to Allston, urging it not to wait. A valediction to a city that sings along, this short track demonstrates lyrical, sonic, and musical maturity. When the lead singer croons out the line, “It’s not your fault that the house you live in is slanted,” it’s evident that he deeply believes what he’s preaching.
The album’s lyrics depend heavily on characters—whether real or fictional—which acts as a double-edged sword: it builds the world that inspired this album, but limits the narrative to an esoteric level. “Lucy” is named after a person, and drugs are referred to as if they themselves are people, like Mary, Jane, Jack, and Ginger. Water Monkey gives love to Hannah that she can share with everyone else in the album’s most lyrically obscure track, which also lends its name to the album’s title. However, the penultimate song expresses fear at the idea of falling into conformity or mediocrity. Within the lyrics, the group admits to desiring fame. “I Want You to Know” begins as a reggae rock song; its melancholic lyrics contrast naturally with its irresistible groove, embodying the common disconnect between an artist’s true thoughts and the product they present. However, the song leads up to a passion-filled bridge, with boastful guitar riffs and drum solos. Slack Tide demands attention and, with an album packed with musical versatility and narrative maturity, rightfully earns it.