In 2018, Seattle’s Naked Giants nailed their blend of garage rock with funk and psych rock elements in their first LP SLUFF. Their latest release The Shadow clamps down and solidifies this core sound, while adding in a variety of styles and experiments to liven up the mix.
There’s never a dull moment in this album, it keeps moving and evolving through different iterations of rock-and-roll that going through its 11 tracks feels like listening to a playlist of carefully curated hits on the genre. From 90’s grunge to 80’s dream pop and the occasional groovy and funk numbers, predicting what comes next seems futile. Naked Giants prove themselves as an extremely versatile band.
Opener “Walk of Doom” starts with raw energy, abrasive tones and a blistering pace. Guitar and bassist Grant Mullen and Gianni Aiello alternate with frenzied yells while Henry LaVallee doubles down with a toms-heavy drum beat. “High School (Don’t Like Them)” keeps up the pace but adds in a more juvenile gusto. The band sings about the fear of growing up and conforming to a more civilized society in this anthemic sing-along romp.
Just when you thought you’re in for a noisy ride, “Take a Chance” slows things down with a groovy bass line and funk-heavy harmonies reminiscent of the Talking Heads. Then the band completely mellows out in “Turn Blue”. The guitars take a backseat for a more synthpop soundscape with a gloomy bass, and now we move a decade earlier to the sounds of The Smiths and The Cure in this nostalgic love song. What’s fascinating about it is that the transition doesn’t seem jarring at all, and it isn’t some half-baked change-up for show. In terms of execution, they pull it off like it’s what they’ve been doing since day one.
Another highlight of this album are the psychedelic cuts that hearken to the 70’s era. “The Ripper” uses trippy guitars and a washed-out aesthetic that undulates like neon sludge. “Unpeeled” turns the dial on weird, with a tense guitar riff that slithers and squirms like a horror story in a pulp magazine with an eerie premise: “When you’re looking at the ceiling / and your mind is unpeeling.”
Other tracks blend the noise and psych-rock elements together like “Television” and “God Damn” but by far its best execution in the title track. “The Shadow” features stellar guitar work, with a roaring alt rock guitar jam similar to 90’s legends Hum, which then breaks down to a blazing mosher at its second half.
Naked Giants executes variety extremely well in this latest offering. The Shadow invites risk with these quirky blends, but the payoff is amazing. An exciting ride from start to finish.