There is something to be said for art made in ignorance, as well as art that intentionally pushes against the grain of what is deemed acceptable. Yet today it is sometimes difficult to discern whether the ignorance is honest, or whether it is done in an attempt to fit in with the cult of the outsider. This release by John Thill may leave one scratching their head in absolute confusion as to where this guy really stands. With just one listen Thill?s music points directly toward the history and tradition of the outsider pop/folk artist. His direct historical antecedents being the likes of lo-fi all stars Ween, Syd Barret and Devendra Banhart.
The songs on the album, alone are catchy folk narratives that speak to bitter break-ups, lost loves and being repeatedly scorned. Thill?s attitude towards women on this is far from polite, in fact taken alone it almost runs into misogynist territory with reference to irreverent facials and other sexual activities that can often be viewed as derogatory, especially when the conquest is reveled in song. Luckily there is an overlaying irony in the manner by which the material is delivered; yet Thill really rides the line at moments between being ironic and simply being a cockrocker.
Beyond the structure and context of the songs, ?The Sluts? is an album that is almost taken over by the recording process itself. Which really brings us back to the mystic of the outsider versus making work in ignorance. Beyond all conversations regarding intent and no matter how one feels about Thill?s songs, it?s the technological ignorance that really defines this album. It can be safely presumed that ?The Sluts? was most likely recorded and even mastered on a four-track machine. And the recording itself is a blown-out mess, in light of industry standards. The guitars are pushed to a clunky distortion and even Thill?s layered vocals blow-out at points, songs abruptly cut off and one can occasionally catch the other side bleeding through backwards during the silence
By all means this no attempt to call for universal recording standards, in fact there are a plethora of recordings that were in fact recorded on four track or even more primitive means that are stunning documents of human expression (Springsteen?s ?Nebraska? and just about all of Roy Montgomery?s recordings to site just two). In truth this is the exact point that may have the listener sitting on the fence with this record; if one were to remove the rough-hewn veneer of this recording for a more proper polish, one might completely lose the immediacy of expression. On the other hand could the songs benefit from some clean up that might push Thill?s songwriting skills more to the forefront, as his music seems to push sound over song. But then one would have to return to a focus on the lyrics over the express dirt. 5/10 -- Cory Card (13 August, 2008)