Slaughter Beach, Dog Continue to Expand Their Universe with ‘Motorcycle.jpg’
Slaughter Beach, Dog is equal parts band and mockumentary; seamlessly existing in a space somewhere between fiction and reality. Initially conceived as a writing exercise to help Ewald claw his way out of a mean spell of writer’s block, the project quickly took on a life of its own. Last year’s Welcome was an aptly named introduction to Ewald’s fictional world; offering us insight to life in the fictional town of Slaughter Beach as seen through the borrowed life experience of the album’s narrator, and we’re do for another LP’s worth of living later this year. Motorcycle.jpg comes to us as a handful of small updates that attempt to help bridge the gap between past and present, not unlike the post-credit scenes that help make sense of Marvel’s cinematic timeline.
Ewald is the kind of songwriter that will focus in on the minutiae of things for the sake of his craft. Undoubtedly succeeding in using these often overlooked details to help paint a picture that’s so unbelievably vivid that, before you know it, you find yourself sucked into the world he’s created. Mere seconds into “Your Cat” you begin to feel like you’re the second half of this almost uncomfortably confessional conversation that’s being had about the end of a relationship. Moments of stark imagery bounce back and forth with bits of dialogue that are usually born unto late night conversation, as evident in the track’s opening line, “She smoked 100s when I met her/She tried to quit before she left me/I’m not so sure if that’s important/Free association gets me dizzy.”
This attention to detail immediately brings to mind the kind of genius that John Darnielle brings to The Mountain Goats. That comparison feels most apt when listening to “104 Degrees.” Stylistically, the track couldn’t feel more separate from that comparison, but it met with such immediacy that I couldn’t not mention it. “104 Degrees” has this sort of deadpan, setting the stage for the next scene kind of delivery that makes it feel almost charming. It’s spoken delivery, plucky and simple guitar work, and the light sounds of synth in the background only layer that feeling of transition.
Our last little update comes from “Building The Ark.” At this point, it feels like we’re living in a loop with these four songs. “Building The Ark” has some of the most subtly romantic lyrics present on the record, but it feels like the narrator wrote this song explicitly for the conversational focus of “Your Cat,” and that makes perfect sense in this situation. This is just a small part of the goings on of Slaughter Beach, and in that respect Motorcycle.jpg succeeds in doing just what it set out to do; existing only as a means to catch us up before we’re thrown into the thick of this year’s forthcoming LP.