Naked Giants’ band logo may look a bit like throwback Nickelodeon show or that popular holographic Finnish band Binky in that episode of “Arthur,” but this quirky Seattle trio playing psychedelic garage punk have already established an aggressively compacted guitar driven and that classic California fuzz-style that can resonate with listeners of Ty Segall and Oh Sees. They’ve performed countless shows throughout the years, playing and touring alongside distinguished artists like Ron Gallo and most recently, Car Seat Headrest. By opening and performing with Car Seat Headrest. Surely, especially becoming part of Car Seat Headrest’s expanded concert lineup, they are becoming more recognized. You can even say they are one of the best live bands to see for under fifteen dollars.
In October of 2016, Naked Giants released their first EP called “R.I.P.” through Miscreant Records. The EP included some of their best live material turned studio such as the distortedly sensual “Twist” and the heavily intense “Pyramids.” Shortly after its release, the band appeared on the popular Seattle radio station KEXP and discussed how they were looking for a record label to release a full-length album with.
After being one of the best unsigned rock bands in the country, Naked Giants finally found a home at New West Records (Drive-By Truckers, Ron Gallo, and Caroline Rose). They released their first album on March 30, simply entitled “SLUFF” — an eccentric grunge title that means “everything and nothing,” as the band would say, which fits the mood of the album.
On “SLUFF,” the band tried capturing the amusing and chaotic live atmosphere their reputation has been built around, which you can definitely hear on “Dead/Alien” and later on “Slow Dance II.” You can also hear many of their influences, ranging from The Stooges to Nirvana to even early Weezer.
Throughout the album, you can hear how Naked Giants even adapted that typical Seattle grunge sound, which isn’t surprising since the debut album was produced by veteran Seattle producer Steve Fisk (Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney). “SLUFF” incorporates the style of music Naked Giants and their contemporaries have been recognized for with a slight tone of blues and white-boy-soul seen throughout the classic 1960’s garage rock scene underlying their fuzzy guitar riffs and effects. Not only does “SLUFF” keep you conscious the entire time and at the very end, you know there’s still a lot to see from this young band.
“SLUFF” opens with “Dead/Alien,” which incorporates a hyperactive melody and the group’s signature psychedelic guitar effects and overdrive. The distorted lo-fi riffs and chorus sounds like if Weezer tried imitating Pavement’s “Texas Never Whispers.”
“We’re Alone” is bouncy with its punchy drums and crunching guitar riffs, as it deals with the traditional male frustration when seeking sex, which you can hear in frontman Grant Mullen’s vocal approach. “Slide” also deals with this theme of sexual frustration as the frontman sings about seeking a particular habit. As both tracks feature messy, but tight Devo-esque instrumentals (also shown on later songs) and sexual undertones, they are also pretty extreme like something off Weezer’s Pinkeron.
However, what’s disappointing with the track “Slide” is how slowed down the song feels. There was a lot of anticipation for this particular track since it is very good live. The choppy guitars, intense vocals and the slide on the bass, which established the interesting text painting of the piece is not highlighted very well at all on this dull studio version.
The upbeat “Everybody Thinks They Know” and woozy “TV” were released as early singles. Both tracks aim towards that quirky and rough early proto-punk style. “TV” starts off with a simplistic and recognizable riff breaks into a psychedelic freak-out jam, which also shares the energy of the Who’s “Naked Eye” with a whirl of fuzz. At the end of this, the song returns back to its normal stage, where Mullen’s vocal approach sounds like the Sketchbook from “Don’t Hug me I’m Scared.”
“Slow Dance II” is a bluesy breakup song, in which Mullen’s vocals go awfully, but fittingly high. The agitated vocals later become hostile — leading into an assertive and distressing guitar solo.
The title track can serve as the band’s anthem, even though it drags on. It features a grimy vocal harmony from the group along with some catchy 90’s Weezer harmonies. “Goldfish I” features a hazy melody – like any standard 1960’s psychedelic garage rock song. However, the instrumentals start to twist on “Goldfish II.” During its bridge, you’re hit with a gloomy bass line, which descends into an energetic jam, featuring a highly-spirited cowbell. “Dat Boi” is as modern-Nirvana it can be, with the instrumentals are pushing from one end to the other, but always returns to that main crunching riff.
“Easy Eating” was an early single featured on the first EP, which shows the reverb and punk attitude the band is all about. It also resembles a similar surf-rock riff the B-52’s used on “Devil in My Car.” Since this is a newer version of the preferable original, it sounds very much like it’s live.
After all the chaos and energy that came before, things start to calm down on the closing track, “Shredded Again” — a nice elegant and slacker soothing song to sing around a campfire and shares a similar melody in the chorus to the Kinks’ “Starstruck.”
One song that was hyped for the new album but left off, was the extremely messy jam “Green Fuzz,” which hopefully receives a proper release in the future. (UPDATE: Naked Giants release “Green Fuzz” EP).
Even though Naked Giants are still pretty under the radar even in the underground scene, there is no doubt this band will show up in the future with more scuzzy and strange garage punk tunes channeling that traditionally heavy Northwest sound. Though it isn’t perfect and nonsensical, for a debut album, it’s certainly worth the listen.
Classic Tracks – “We’re Alone,” “Dead/Alien,” “Everybody Thinks They Know (But No One Really Knows),” “Slow Dance II” and “Goldfish II”
Ehh – “Slide,” “Goldfish I” and “Easy Eating”
You can listen to Naked Giants’ “SLUFF” here.