Slowthai: Ugly Album Review | Pitchfork

As a rapper, Slowthai has a lot of technical ability and charisma, but the same can’t be said for his singing. One of his signature moves is changing the pitch of his voice in the midline, a trick that makes for an unmistakable rap but sounds like poor pitch coming from a singer. The result is that many of the songs on Ugly they almost feel like karaoke performances. “Falling” takes aim at the Pixies, but misses sorely the passionate mania of Black Francis (the title track, which features Irish post-punks Fontaines DC, achieves this sound more successfully). “Tourniquet” answers a question no one asked: What would a Radiohead ballad sound like with hardcore vocals? “Never Again” tells the story of a chance meeting with an ex that ends in tragedy; it is clearly meant to be the soulful centerpiece of the record. But the song, which features backing vocals sung by Ethan P. Flynn and verses rapped by Slowthai, feels disjointed and awkward, like an imagined, shelved collaboration between David Bowie and Mike Skinner.

UglyThe worst song on It’s Not Even a Rock Song. On “Fuck It Puppet,” Slowthai contorts his voice into various shapes as he raps over a dry boom-bap beat. But the song’s conceit (Slowthai engaging in a yelling match with the suicidal voice in his head) brings to mind his less flattering comparison: Eminem. In the years following Slowthai’s debut, SoundCloud rap morphed into “rage rap,” a subgenre that branded (almost exclusively) male aggression in a way clearly indebted to Slim Shady. But that sound is past its expiration date and its main architects are moving on. It would be the perfect time for an artist as thoughtful as Slowthai to interrogate or at least complicate rap’s infatuation with male anger. Instead, on songs like “Fuck It Puppet,” he just lets the anger flow.

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This lack of vision is what makes Ugly Very disappointing. Slowthai’s work as a rapper is much more dynamic and vital; there is no real meaning to because these songs had to be rock songs. In Britain’s up to no good, Slowthai’s anger, against institutions, injustices and his own rude upbringing, felt fair and representative. Here he feels vague and nihilistic (“I’m sick of thinking there’s a reason I’m here / We’re just puppets in a simulation,” he muses on “Ugly”), far less nuanced than the reflective bars in 2021. TYRON. It’s possible to make heavy music that directs your anger toward worthy targets, approaches introspection with maturity, or doesn’t rely on anger at all for catharsis. Ugly it sounds like something far less interesting: the kind of generically angsty guitar music only a ’90s major-label exec could love.

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slowthai: ugly

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