Review: Slam Donahue ‘Hemlock Tea’

Release date: October 16
Rating: 3.5/5

With so much retro-mining carried out in musical forms these days, one is hard pressed to hear anything especially new or cutting edge. This is okay—not everything is meant to subvert forms or create new ones. Slam Donahue occupies this territory. There is a clear Kinks or Troggs influence running through some tracks on their new EP “Hemlock Tea,” but it is still very of the moment. When bands dip their toes into the garage pop of the ’60s, they tend to come out quite tinted by the experience. Not the case with Slam Donahue’s “Hemlock Tea.”

EP opener “Bug In The Sun” is a strong rock and roll statement, channeling that decades-old garage rock but also the ghostly voice of Jay Reatard. There is no pretension here—just rock. With “I Turn On” fuse tinkling synth arpeggios on a Ray Davies-esque tune. There’s no reason that this track shouldn’t rise from the underground to more mainstream environs, particularly the territory occupied, however, briefly by MGMT. Another obvious analogue, though perhaps Slam Donahue isn’t aware of it, is the Australian band The Sleepy Jackson. This is not a knock. Slam Donahue seem to have Luke Steele’s ease with songwriting and melody.

“C’mon C’mon” is a song of romantic pursuit and unapologetically veers into cliche amidst its infinitely hummable melodies. The band further pursues this thread on “Where Were We on the Weekend,” which balances the upbeat with the nostalgic after a weekend of destruction and memory erasure (brought on by substances perhaps?). The trio sing, “People get together… It’s not easily avoided… Breaking all your shit junk… Where we laugh until the morning comes.” And come the morning does on EP closer “Good Morning World,” closing out this slacker-romantic affair.

Stream “C’mon C’mon” and check out the group’s mixtape for Team Coco below.