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A Different Beast
By Kevin Gibson
Slithering Beast rolled out of Southern Indiana four or five years ago on the steam of a honky-tonk-meets-punk vibe that drew positive reviews and enthusiastic crowds. Despite a rotating cast of players, front man/songwriter/etc. Nick Dettmeier kept the train on the track and barreled forward like a runaway locomotive.
Recorded at Louisville Recording Arts with yet another new lineup, Delicious represents a five-song change of pace for the Beast. The country vibe is still present, but this is Dettmeier's attempt to win over a larger audience. The arrangements are a bit more in the pop vein, and the production and performance is more precise.
This will be good for some ears and bad for others and represents a move that runs the risk of alienating old fans in pursuit of the new ones. "Things Are Looking Up" is perhaps the best example of this – with restrained playing, meticulous arrangement and a horn-section backing, one can tell the track was recorded with AAA radio in mind.
That's not to say it's a bad thing – but clearly punk is now out of the Slithering Beast equation.
Similarly, "You and Me" is a mid-tempo, country-pop tune with quite a bit of "awww" in the lyric. "You and me/We don't have to pretend there's sunshine every day/I like the sound of that/You and me." Awww. (See?)
All kidding aside, this EP succeeds at what it seems to be attempting, which is to create a more ear-friendly version of the Beast. Heck, this might even pass as a (gulp!) Nashville demo, as there is an undeniable attempt at pop restraint along with added layers of instrumentation other than just loud and twangy electric axes. Hammond organ is all over the place, along with the aforementioned horns, gentle acoustic guitars and other stringed instruments.
"Everywhere I Go" is the only track that really makes an attempt at rocking a bit, and even that shows the new restraint, sounding almost tailor-made for modern country radio.
Even Dettmeier's vocals are decidedly more calculated on this effort, and he pulls it off with aplomb. Having seen the band perform a number of times, I never thought of Dettmeier as a true lead singer, but rather one who found a niche and pulled it off. And yet, I have to hand it to him, he pulls off some nice deliveries that even Dwight Yoakam would be proud of.
If you're a long-standing Slithering Beast fan, you have been warned. If you're looking for something new in the alt-country category, this is worth a listen. The Beast hasn't derailed, by any means, but rather has landed itself on an entirely different set of tracks.
You can check out Slithering Beast April 14 at Zanzabar. Find more details at slitheringbeast.com.