One thing I tend to be skeptical about, is when relatively unknown bands kind of ‘creep’ onto a highly esteemed label. In this instance, the label in question is Bird Attack Records and said band this time around is SLED. But wait, there’s more – SLED was formerly Pinhole Down, and Garrett Wadford (owner and operator of Bird Attack) handles guitar duties for the Florida outfit. But you already knew that, right? Of course you did ya punk rock lifer. What you might not know, is that aside from the main lineup of Garrett Wadford (guitar), Micheal Fitzgerald (Fitzy) on Vocals, Matt Phillips (guitar), Lane Pittman (bass) and Kyle Helm (drums), Garrett has assembled a rotating collective of international musicians to fill out the band to make touring easier, in case regular players aren’t available. Such players include members of Guttermouth, This is a Standoff, and La Armada. Now that’s just smart planning.
There has been a long history of successful bands on labels owned by by one of their own (e.g. Bad Religion, NOFX, et al), but what I really was curious to know was how was A Better You going to stand up to everything Bird Attack Records has been churning out as of late. This year has seen some monumental records released by the label: 88 Fingers Louie, Wraths, Authority Zero, amongst others. Big names, great records. But hey, I’m always game for something new, so let’s dive in shall we? Good luck boys!
As mentioned before, SLED was born from the ashes of Pinhole Down, and after years of shows and festival performances, this is their first release (currently and formerly) as a band. The band explains their sound as a mix between skate punk and stoner rock. Huh? Ok, but being pretty familiar with both genres, I didn’t really know what I was getting into or how those two would meet. Two things are for sure: this is not skate punk for the lazy peeps, nor is it the speed demon’s come down to chill town. I can safely say A Better You nestles in sweetly and finds its own sound in the comfortable, yet experimental middle. For those who live and breathe for melodic skate punk, A Better You bears the hallmarks of everything cherished, such as muted crossover chug alongs, layering octave chords and the galloping bpm back beat. But there’s also quite a bit of unexpected groove thrown in to make it coalesce into something that may stand out for the uninitiated. So I can kind of see where the stoner rock comparison might start to make its presence felt. Add in Fitzy’s rolling and almost croony vocal approach to the songs, and you have what SLED is all about.
Tracks such as Wasting Away prove SLED are capable of writings songs that verge on melodic ear worm territory, while songs like Mono Lake prove they’re no joke at technical aptitude. A Better You is a damn fine start for a first release, and I’m happy to report that it holds its ground amongst the other releases on the label in an otherwise stacked, well-known roster.
A Better You was released September 15th of this year, and you can buy digital and physical copies via Bird Attack Records Bandcamp page. Check out the promo video for Wrong below.