Imagine a band so bold, dynamic and pinball bouncing eclectic that 11 albums and 32 years after their debut album – and after a cross country move from New York to San Diego and a hiatus for the lead singer to pursue his passion for flying – they’re still trying to Figure It Out, as Sluka captures so eloquently on the title of their latest high octane opus.
Led by vocalist songwriter, guitarist, keyboardist and musical visionary Christopher Sluka, the band – which currently features a stunning creative and sonic foil in Anna Eppink (bass, trumpet, accordion) - continues to keep the sounds popping in unexpected ways on a nine track set that’s all at once ominous, theatrical, orchestral, rocking and thumping to the point of dance hypnosis.
Sluka keeps us intrigued from the get go, launching the offbeat and baroque influenced title track with a lengthy synth rock intro and offering a multitude of tempo shifts (from dreamy slow to fiery quick) on a tune featuring a couplet that sums up our existential challenge in these anxious, perilous times: “We’re superimposed upon the world we tip-toe till we falter/Breathe out, breathe in, cry in silence, screaming.
While the album features elements from all the great bands Sluka has been compared to over the years – Depeche Mode, Coldplay, Radiohead, Nick Cave – the frontman is at his most authoritative and expressive on the bouncy, funked out Bowie-esque synth-rocker “Shout Out,” which features another reference to shouting out in silence and offers this incredible nugget of contemporary wisdom: “Truth decay, is something we believe can go away.”
The truly magical essence of this collection is captured in the unique flow from dramatic and soaring brashly symphonic anthems (“Feel The Weight,” “The Runner,” the rumbling, percussive “Sos”) to more restrained, moody and lyrical expressions like the first three quarters of “What Else” (which of course explodes big at the end) and what is perhaps the emotional centerpiece of the set (despite being the closer), the classically influenced “Happy in Your World.”
This one begins as a classically influenced piano vocal ballad that allows us to hear Sluka’s cautious hopefulness unadorned by the powerful orchestral boom that comes later. When he plaintively sings, “I could be happy in your world/You could be happy in mine,” we almost don’t need all the big emphatic swirl of energy at the end to feel that swell of possibility.
Listen to Figure It Out here: https://open.spotify.com/album/3qUULh7GUrF52gD2N1eI7G