Couch Slut – Contempt

Brooklyn’s Couch Slut is a band who is very deliberate when it comes to word choice. How else would you end up with that band name? It certainly doesn’t make finding them on Facebook easy. There’s never an autocomplete suggestion given for their name, even as you get to the second “U”. Zuckerberg & Co. would rather assume we’re trying to get to the personal page of Couch Slug (a seemingly inactive account) instead of insinuating that it’s users would actually seek out something with the word slut in it. It’s not rocket science. It’s an off-putting word. It’s an unsavory word. It makes people uncomfortable. I admittedly had a brief pause about liking their page because I’d imagined how this would come across my family’s newsfeed (sorry for any confusion, Aunt Mel!). So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Couch Slut create hideous music. They cover topics like substance abuse, sexual assault, and a shitshow of the other headfucking kinds of disrespect that humans endure from one another with the instrumentation to back it up.

Keeping this in mind, Contempt couldn’t be a more apt title for this seven-track twisting knife in the gut of a record. It’s a word without a positive connotation, and it crystallizes the vibe of the record perfectly. The now four-piece continue their dingy, disturbing, and (thought) provoking narrative, and again, the Leandro De Cotis cover art is something that should serve as a conversation piece. Vocalist Megan Osztrosits’ delivery is as savage as ever, from adrenaline-fueled and feral shrieks (“Snake In The Grass”) to emotive and exhaustive howls (“Folk Song”), she provides a tangible and so stunningly human quality that it’s likely to send shivers down the spines of the scariest of boogeymen death metal vocalists. Though her performance can’t be understated, but it would really mean nothing without Contempt’s emotionally draining lyrics. She presses things into mortifying and uncomfortable territories, as if she’s peeling your eyelids open and forcing you to stare upon the unimaginables of each track. “Summer Smiles” rubs your nose in it: “And they would kick me in the head / If I turned to see what the fuck he was doing / I didn’t know why I was so interested in specifics / He took me down with a knife to my throat / He said ‘don’t you say a fuckin’ word.’ / So I stared at the floor and tried to relax”. Subtlety isn’t part of the formula. Contempt is unrelenting.

It might appear that nothing comes easy with this record, but fortunately (and in a way, ironically) the instrumentation makes things palatable without sacrificing intensity. Album opener “Funeral Dyke” begins with a three-fold salvo ushered in with saxophone that feels like John Zorn by way of Coalesce, before shifting through a cathartic and in-your-face barrage of noisy, scorched hardcore. The blackened facets aren’t heavy-handed here, instead putting most of their weight behind the wallop of noise rock and hardcore. “Snake In The Grass” distills this potential into a dirty and off-kilter bounce with a simply infectious gravity before decaying into an almost darkwave reprise. Where many -core bands augment their sound to the point where it becomes a matter of turning things on and off, here is a smooth blend that is as expertly sludgy as it is biting punk (see “Penalty Scar”). The tandem of guitarist Kevin Wunderlich and bassist Kevin Hall have things in deft lockstep, efficient as they deliver the riffs, and in perfect measure they draw things out, letting feedback seep in and breaking things down to their frayed ends. Theo Nobel’s drumming is deliberate and emphatic, an undoubtedly solid backbone for fierce moments, but more importantly, his toolkit of beats that is able to get the most out of their angular attack and dynamics. Also decorated with a slew of atypical instrumentation: bells, tambourine, and brass instruments, Contempt juxtaposes these sounds as if to create another level of alluring unease. The mix sounds fantastic (especially when compared to their previous offering), the drums and low end are on another level completely, approaching something like a recent Converge record – equal parts untamed emotion, attack, and body.

There’s not much else like Contempt, it’s an incredible record. As disturbing as it is, it’s an effective piece of art. But still, it’s more than that – it’s riveting. It’s borderline addicting in a conflicting kind of way, specifically because of the general ugliness that occurs over the course of the album. In roughly five-minute doses, these tracks earworm with segments that you’ll wish would last longer (consistently), and still they feel shorter than they are, even as they approach the nine minute mark. These aren’t anthems you’ll be singing along with friends, but the words, you won’t forget.

Contempt is available now from Gilead Media on vinyl. Digital release coming July 28.