For all of the credit Nirvana gets for inspiring legions of alt-rockers and grunge revivalists, there’s another branch in their lineage that larger goes unnoticed. I’m talking about doomgaze and sludge. Bands like Cloakroom, Lume, and even Thou might not be as transparent in their admiration for the Aberdeen trio, but their tendencies owe a lot to the grunge gods (for their part, Thou has released an entire album of Nirvana covers).
South Bend IN trio Sleepy Jack bridges that gap, pairing atmospheric and heavy instrumental work with vocals that bear a certain resemblance to Kurt.
From a strictly aesthetic standpoint, they have an awful lot in common with lauded doomgaze acts like Lume and Cloakroom. Guitars are often drowned in a thick layer of amp-rattling fuzz, sometimes even in the quieter passages. The clean parts are almost always slathered with chorus and reverb. The bass is acrobatic without being too noodly, playing melodies higher on the fret board without forgetting about holding down the low end. The drums are strictly no-nonsense, playing loudly and with conviction, avoiding fills unless absolutely necessary.
But their ethos strays a bit from the doomgaze textbook—which isn’t a bad thing. Tempos aren’t as solemn as many bands in the genre, and the songs are relatively short (the longest is four minutes on the dot). This keeps the record from meandering too much and getting slogged down in its own sludge. The songs are economical and brief: each track kicks the door in, thrashes your living room for a bit, and leaves.
Vocalist Nate Frederick isn’t as acerbic as Kurt’s nasally gravel, but it has a similar affectation. His lyrics point a finger at mass media consumption, political corruption, and his own listlessness. It’s undeniably relatable stuff in an era marked with social media-marred attention spans, manufactured outrage, and fierce ideological division.
To be clear, this record is a little rough around the edges. Some lines are pitchy. Some parts aren’t time-corrected the way listeners used to high gloss commercial recordings might be used to. But that’s part of its appeal in the first place. Those rough edges add to its authenticity, refusing to compromise itself for others’ comfort.
Candy River Fossils is out now through Bandcamp.