Tuff Slang

Sometimes all you need is a little swagger, a little strut in your music. For the past couple of years, after what seemed like a lull in this department, it has returned in various forms from various places. Usually it’s tucked in a subgenre, but sometimes it’s just too big to fit into any box other than the banner of good ole rock ‘r’ roll. An example of this? None other than Tuff Slang’s self-titled LP.

When the album opens with “Nothing All the Time,” you know what you’re in for. And even though the Chicago trio throws out “only” seven tracks for the album, you’re dealing with some top shelf quality. It’s clear you’re getting a full on rock album, especially on a track like “Sunglasses.” For being from the Second City, they don’t mind pulling out a bit of twang – both influenced by the city’s history as well as artists from below the Mason-Dixon Line. The mentioned track has a jangle that carries over from “Gracie,” but while the latter is just damn fun, the former fully gets that you gotta take the bad with the good sometimes. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself in the process.

Tuff Slang isn’t missing out on its cooler moments though. “Death of my Hometown” feels like it requires a jacket for its temperature. It’s strong in the blues department, and the guys definitely wander a southern pathway. But they just keep moving on, even if things aren’t the same as they used to be. Honestly, it feels a bit anti-nostalgic, and that’s pretty alright in our eyes… or ears. An even-keeled attitude is then present on “Do Wut U,” so the band isn’t above taking a breather either.

With that said, you wouldn’t have guessed it from “Lil’ Violet,” the fourth track (and album highlight). Oh sure, it seems like the band will dial it back a bit while the intro is playing, but nope. The song is fuzzy, full of gnarly effects pedals, and the bass line is the soundtrack to the cool kid walking into school. Drums crash like a hard rocking wave smashing against rocks. What seems like a decrescendo gets one last bang, so by the time album closer “Pushin’ Carts” rolls around, you can’t decide if you want to keep the party rolling or if the guys deserve some rest. You aren’t searching for any hidden meaning in it – “kicking down the screen door, running out the backyard” makes everything abundantly transparent.

Overall, the album seems to close on a note that understands when to take what life gives you, and they also get when you need to make your own thing happen. Tuff Slang are definitely making their own thing happen. Check out what we’re talking about by heading over to their bandcamp. Joey Smith