Naked Giants, a psychedelic garage and indie rock outfit, from the Seattle music scene, are one of the most eccentric, highly exciting, and alluring bands making music today. Their band logo may look a bit like throwback Nickelodeon show or Binky, but they are the epitome of shredding guitars. They have defined their sound from playing countless shows over the years, from touring with Ron Gallo to Car Seat Headrest. Currently, they are coined by some as one of the best live bands to see for under $20.
Formed in 2014, Naked Giants consists of guitarist/vocalist Grant Mullen, bassist/vocalist Gianni Aiello, and drummer Henry LaVallee. Since the trio is fairly young, in their very-early twenties, they just want to hang loose and enjoy their time as a band.
They released their EP back in 2016, entitled RIP, which included some of their best material such as “Twist” and “Pyramids.” After its release, the band appeared on KEXP, a public radio station based in Seattle, and discussed how they were looking for a record label to release a full-length album.
They found a home at New West Records (Drive-By Truckers, Ron Gallo, and Caroline Rose), where they finally released their first album, simply entitled SLUFF – a very sounding punk title fitting the band’s look. On the album, the band tried capturing the amusing and chaotic live atmosphere, their reputation is built around, which you can definitely hear on the opening track, “Dead/Alien” and “Slow Dance II.” You can also hear many of their influences, ranging from The Stooges to Weezer. They have the typical Seattle grunge sound, which isn’t surprising since their new album was produced by veteran Seattle producer, Steve Fisk (Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney). SLUFF incorporates the style of music, they and their contemporaries have been recognized for, with a slight tone of blues and white-boy-soul, basically of 60’s garage rock, underlying their fuzzy guitar riffs and effects. It keeps you conscious and moving until the very end.
SLUFF opens with “Dead/Alien,” which incorporates a hyperactive melody and the group’s signature psychedelic guitar effects. With the lo-fi riffs and chorus, it sounds like if Weezer tried imitating Pavement’s “Texas Never Whispers.”
“We’re Alone,” the best track on the album, is bouncy, as it deals with the typical frustration to have sex, which you can hear in Mullen’s vocals. The upbeat “Everybody Thinks They Know” and woozy “TV” were released as early singles and both have a seventies punk styled approach. However, “TV” breaks into a Zappa freak-out jam, which also shares the energy of the Who’s “Naked Eye” and a whirl of fuzz and distorted guitars. 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 vocals later become aggressive – leading into an assertive and distressing guitar solo.
One of the most disappointing moments on the album however, comes from the track, “Slide.” There was a ton of anticipation with this track, since it was one of the best songs the group performed live. Along with the choppy guitars and intense vocals, the slide on the bass and guitar is not emphasized the way they should be and the production here, seems to be slowed down. When the countdown vocals begin, the song becomes a mess, even with the pleasing Devo-esque guitar solo.
The title track can serve as the band’s anthem, even though its repetitive. It features a grimy vocal harmony from the group, along with some 90’s Weezer “woo-hoos.” “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, the band will get. It seems like the instrumentals are pushing to one end to the other, but always returns to that main crunching riff. “Easy Eating,” an early single released in 2016 and on the band’s EP, 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 newly improved version, it sounds very much likes 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, which shares a similar melody in the chorus when compared to the Kinks’ “Starstruck.”
One song that was hyped for the new album but left off, was the extremely messy jammy “Green Fuzz,” which hopefully is released officially in the future.
Even though, Naked Giants are still considered an underground band and don’t really take themselves that serious, there is no doubt they shouldn’t be considered as worthy or popular as indie acts like Car Seat Headrest or Ty Segall. On SLUFF, they proved to be one of the hottest indie rock bands playing music today, channeling all of their influences and that heavy sounding Northwest music sound.
Favorite tracks: : “Dead/Alien,” “We’re Alone,” “Everybody Thinks They Know (But No One Really Knows),” “Slow Dance II,” “Goldfish II,” “Shredded Again”
Least favorite tracks: “Slide,” “SLUFF”
You can listen to Naked Giants’ SLUFF here.