Slough Feg‘s Digital Resistance is a timely look at the role of technology on our lives. If a more professorial Thin Lizzy penning very memorable, theatrical songs with social-themes sounds like your mug of swill, look no further. Feg founder Mike Scalzi sang on my second favorite concept album of all time , Hammers of Misfortune’s The Bastard (first place is King Diamond’s Abigail). This is my favorite release of Scalzi’s since that killer Hammers disc, Slough Feg taking a hard look at the pros and cons of technology in our lives. Where The Bastard looked at a soul’s descent into deception and Abigail was also a metaphor for betrayals and revenge, Slough Feg’s Digital Resistance also focuses on the preservation of the soul (albeit with a timely look at how technology is both furthering and yet eroding our evolution). The contradictions prove fodder for some great rock from the San Fran based act. I loved their Ape Uprising record of recent years, but it isn’t always easy to listen to songs about Apes overthrowing society. I like Primus, for example, but how often do you want to rock out to songs about Bodacious the Bull or drinking Pork Soda? There’s a time and a place, but this new Slough Feg shit is real user friendly despite song titles like (the fantastic) “Analogue Avengers/Bertrand Russell’s Sex Den”. Seriously. What a name!
Yes, the record is wordy. These catchy, classic rock influenced jams could go toe to toe with Bad Religion’s All Ages for bookish rock verbosity. Don’t fret, however. Every song rocks and no power is sacrificed for the sake of brow-beating (if anything the words add to the appeal). “Magic Hooligan” jams like Boston or Kansas drinking with Technical Ecstasy-era “Back Street Kid” Sabbath, lots of big 70’s glory and bad ass street shuffle. It really takes off when the song burts into a syncopated Maiden gallop semi-similar to Hammers’ best Bastard cut “You Should Have Slain Me.” The title track is a blur of a working class prog work out, if such a thing can exist! Scalzi kills it with the singalong social satire with memorable lines like “The season is ripe and free for killing technology”. He not only nails society’s ills but references a Voivod classic! Mind pollution, unchecked greed and the erosion of human contact all make appearances. Kudos to their label for giving them free reign to make some real art. Dave Mustaine should listen to this and get his act back together.
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“Laser Enforcer” is “Highway Star” meets “Barracuda” with sci-fi lyrics, while “The Luddite” melds relaxed Celtic rock with Zep and challenges the “pixelated landscapes” filling the eyes of children. “Curriculum Vitae” stuns with huge, victorious riffs and fluid bass. Guitar sails from the ramparts of some surreal Gene Wolfe architecture. “Habeus Corpsus” is another great cut, a western sounding gallop seemingly about a hardened killer. It is very catchy but gritty, opening with noir-worthy imagery of taking a razor to someone’s eyes in Chicago. The whole record seems to ache for a better world and lament human folly, misuse of technical application and the lack of soul in the world. Imagine Paulo Coelho’s The Pilgramage married to Philip K. Dick’s paranoia set to a rock soundtrack as spied on through an Iphone and you are kinda pointed in the right direction.
The story behind the album title Digital Resistance is an interesting one that touches on the topic of the digital age not only in terms of music, but how technology affects life itself. “Most of the titles for this collection of songs were invented by friends of mine, just sitting around shooting the shit, without any intention of them being song titles,” Mike says. “Just statements made, mostly in jest, about things gong on in the world, or in the Bay Area, at the current time. Digital Resistance is one of those phrases. A friend of mine said to another friend ‘you’re part of the digital resistance, aren’t you?’ while asking him if he still owned a VCR, or something. I thought it was catchy and funny, and summed up my attitude towards the current digital revolution. I used to like technology, and still do in a poetic/literary sense, but the reality of it is becoming quite frightening. This theme then expanded to the role of technology in human evolution, etc. I am a teacher, and I watch students’ mindsets changing on a yearly basis—let’s just say I can’t say they are becoming noticeably smarter, with the advent of all this technology at their fingertips.”
The moral? It makes you want to both shake and run from humanity or motivates you to want to get out and try and change things for the better, depending on your mood. The album is sure to make your thoughts race, however. Closer “Warriors Dusk” shows these veterans can kick it as powerfully as anything in The Sword’s repertoire and the cover art is maybe the band’s coolest since the Erol Otus cover of their Down Among The Deadmen release.
In two words…crucial/anthemic.