by Joshua Gross
The musicians of the Slip are genuine musicians. Let me repeat that: The musicians of the Slip are genuine musicians. They are good at what they do. They play in small, hot, musty venues wearing sweaty T-shirts, faded jeans and torn-up shoes. They don’t play to be looked at; they don’t play for the groupies. They simply play. This is why Does is so remarkable, with its complete lack of overproduction or the desperate desire to impress. They know they’re good so they play well, and they aren’t going to try to trick you into liking it.
Does is just three musicians jamming, giving it their best.
On the cover of the album, a bunch of spectators wearing headphones stand around looking at and actually listening to a painting of the three musicians. It’s an impressionist painting of them playing, heads down, concentrated on the music. They aren’t concentrating on showmanship; they are concentrating on the task at hand, constructing funky tunes.
The purpose of this album is to give you an impression; it is a stylized invitation to attend one of the band’s shows. But it stands on its own as well. Each song is a slight variation on a theme, similar in form yet strongly divergent in content. The funky bass lines and fuzzy, upbeat guitar of “So Dope” give the song a James Brown feel, as if his whole entourage had been shrunk down into three people by some wild-eyed scientist. “Paint Cans” is a mad drumming frenzy performed with (obviously) paint cans. At less than two minutes long, the song is like a small commercial, an announcement of the incredible talent and versatility of the band. “My Room” showcases the individual band members’ talents, alternately dissolving into short solos and then regrouping. The band also includes a short, pleasant, quiet, hidden song, a welcome addition.
The band sounds much stronger instrumentally than vocally, however, and the vocals on “The Invocation” and “A Crack in the Sundial” are slightly boring and take away from the improvisational majesty that somersaults from behind the singing. Overall, Does is exactly what it makes itself out to be, a perfect example of what the Slip “does” every night, around the country, to small crowds of devoted, enthralled fans who like their music funky and their musicians genuine.
E-mail Joshua Gross at email@example.com.