Gentle Persuaders by Sly and The Family DroneRelease date: April 26, 2019
Label: Love Love
I’ve never listened to a Sly & The Family Drone recording before but, having witnessed what they do live a couple of times, I have a feeling that Gentle Persuaders is going to be pretty fucking sick.
My first impression is that this album feels impenetrable and domineering, divorced. I keep trying to break the ice with it but, it’s distant and unwelcoming. I listen to it a few times and stare at a blank page to try and jot down my thoughts as the tracks play, I keep forgetting what they’re called so I write them in hoping to hone in on the narrative of the album. To borrow a phrase from Jim Morrison, this music is the definition of what it’s like to “wallow in the mire”. A miserable swamp of sound, that feels hellish and toxic where no light enters or escapes. I decide to can the approach entirely, after several listens, I’ve finally decided there are no songs on this album, even though, the band have given each section seemingly blasé track titles, they themselves seem to indicate a lack of reverence for individual songs. To sit and try and consider this album as anything but one long form tour through dread is a mistake, I feel like naming these fragments was a cunning trick to lure in willing victims and not disenfranchise those afraid to sit down for a song that lasts over half an hour. This record almost seems to renounce itself, what is the point of the individual songs?
Sly and The Family Drone focus on the immediate and spontaneous, they’re a band well-known for handing out instruments to the audience to play wild and spontaneous improvised sets. It makes me wonder if this album is almost a critique of the demand for a recorded artefact from a band so, renowned for what they do in the now. Would it be fair for me to say that you can only hope to capture their energy in a moment like you can only capture a fragment of someone’s identity and personality in a photograph? I feel as though it is the case. Is this album really the impenetrable fortress I conceptualised it to be or is it merely a trailer for what the band does? Is it their way of getting people to a show or is it actually, indicative of what I think Sly and The Family Drone are really doing, which is attempting to challenge or even, change how we experience music?
There is value in having a studio version of Sly and The Family Drone to slip into the void with, without the limitations of live audio recording as it exists within underground/noise music. Do I think this is a good record? Yes. Do I think it’s fucking punishing and relentless? Yes. However, I’m not sure how to begin breaking down the actual music itself for existing fans of Sly and The Family Drone. It’s really fucking good and it is one of the most thought-provoking albums I’ve ever listened to in its ability to make me question how I consume music. Sly and The Family Drone can’t be everywhere and you’d never be able to cram all of the people who already like them and all of those who prospectively would in a room so, without a doubt this record is a necessary artefact. But, I think my issue is that I don’t want to put on any of these songs individually and yet, I know that if I feel like listening to Sly and The Family Drone this is now what I’ll go to first. I don’t know, I think my melon is really twisted this time. Perhaps the best way to describe this record is that it is as puzzling and horrific as its magnificent Picasso-esque cover art.