Album Review: Thelma and the Sleaze – Fuck. Marry. Kill

Thelma and the Sleaze – Fuck, Marry, Kill

by Jay Armstrong

The torch for hardest working substantial southern sweaty band should have been passed to Thelma and the Sleaze proper the moment the gut wrench reality of Natural Child apparently falling off the face of the planet started setting in. No one knows it more than the band does. Since day one it has been a near stop grind to the top coming out of Nashville, they are as relentless as they are deserving, the future is nothing but positives.  With Fuck. Marry. Kill  the Sleaze stop tiptoeing around grabbing the recognition they have earned.

Has it really been seven years? Whenever the weight of space between then and now starts poking its finger in my still on the same bullshit face an album such as Fuck. Marry. Kill lands on my lap and reminds me it takes time to get where we are going, things evolve, our foot may ease the pedal off the floor a bit but in its place you get to feel that suspension tapping out the quarter mile rhythm on a back road burn sesh without a cop in site and enough sunlight still left to freeze a few frames eternal with each glancing off at the horizon; long story short Thelma and the Sleaze just traded in their ninety-one Mustang for a seventy-four Coup De Ville and they are riding around in it like the album sales already paid the damn thing off.

You never can tell when, if ever, a band will get to where they are supposed to be in the social awareness, all it takes is a quick nauseous turning on of the radio to remember just how dire of straits we are facing. It is a shame some of the more powerful, hardworking, rounded bands are making music at this very moment and it is still a word of mouth folk tradition which keeps us spending all this energy one band at a time for the whole thing to stay afloat. Sure we don’t want those who find meaning in the latest whatever stockholmed unlistenable formulaic mediocrity of the week hit to be into the same bands as we are, the they-vs-us line is an important one, sort of I guess, but our being few sleeking around the many has some serious disadvantages for bands like this trying to carve their way proper into sustainable permanence. Most servers I know talk of having nightmares of an endless amount of ungreeted tables before them, in a panic they try working their way through each one without an end in sight, my money says each member of Thelma and the Sleeze have the same sort of fevered nightmares about touring; driving seventy hours straight to a city it turns out they don’t have a show at or no one is there to watch them, everything going wrong, being helpless to force their will or skill into the situation; having been touring in a frantic running outta time, gotta get there, get there, get there now mentality in real life for as long as any of us has had our focus in their direction. This makes the surprising notable of this album having all of that panic, all of that slash square shouldered stance against eternity, transformed into icy confidence of a fantastic zen forty minute good time.

The album opens with “Down,” a direct reflection of living in a van for years on end where you learn to appreciate the voice of each member, when they speak you listen, there is a sweetness to the respect, the understanding of what each other offers to the journey bleeds through to the last second, the lead on both guitar and keyboard are spread out so as to make it far from sounding like some arena rock cock contest boring us to tears, the bass and drums carry an off-center balance facing each other as to allow both feet to keep alternating rhythm with each tangent. They are showcasing what has been learned in craft along the way–which is exactly what this album does from moment one to last, it grabs anyone taking the time to listen by the shoulder, pulls ya in close, and says “hell yeah we’re Rock n Roll, always been. How long since you remember it being done this well?” I damn near fall into tears with a whispered resigned, “too long.”

The boldness of the album comes through in how before now their songs were a pick and choose sort of ride, one tangent would draw you in more than another from their fluid swaying between boundaries–not just between records and EP’s but between one track to the other which made them more of a “you gotta see this band live” than a “you gotta hear this record” type of outfit. There is no bullshitting around on Fuck. Marry. Kill., they may touch every fringe of balance within their defined ever expanding breadth in limitations but the record has an undercurrent binding the whole ride together, make no mistake about it, Thelma and the Sleaze shaped and embraced their collective cohesive best on this one. I’m surprised after all the years they manage to turn my infatuation with the band into an unrequited passion yet here I am with the record going over and over catching the space of silence between each track eager for what comes next and genuinely wowed with newfound respect from each jump off.

Fuck. Marry. Kill. shows a band cleaning up the noise of their past and making something bigger than themselves. If only we could have been there as the band listened through the first pressing, they must have been all smiles with we-did-IT excitement. Something tells me they know just how huge this is about to be, every single song from the screaming dance off of “Mary Beth” to the way the kissing booth sweetness of “Candy Anne” comes in as the tail on the strongest four song opener we’ve heard this side of The Rich Hands Fast and LooseAll the way through the off the cuff closer “Laborghini,” each track sounds as if it would have been a highlight song on a feel great late-eighties/early-nineties soundtrack of some Roadhouse vibe of film. I think back to ten year old me thirsting unquenched for everything great that existed outside of my nothing awareness midwest town and have a nostalgic regret for only getting to experience this album now, sure I will become note for note comfortable with it, spinning the record every chance I get for late night friends, in the back of my mind though will remain an acute awareness had it came along sooner it could have been huge during those formative years. That is what I believe will stand out about the record over time, similar to say those early single releases from Sheer Mag or Saturday Night Sweetheart from Thee Tsunamis, Fuck. Marry. Kill.  has the ability to own the attention of those still cutting their teeth on the potentials of the here and now in a bold defined moment saying ignore the negative been arounds who are too close-minded to accept anything new into their lives. This record is a testament that life still has some sugary cool left to be tasted.

Congratulations to us I guess, rather than packing it up and calling it quits, Thelma and the Sleaze left their shit in the van and just kept on setting up in every town that would have them along the way, all the miles paid off for us at least. Now all that remains is whether we can share this enough with those who matter, with those that need it, without it being inundated by the Coachella coattailers before we find a defining moment to demand they remain ours alone; what I’m saying is don’t keep this record secret but damn sure make certain to keep it safe, we need Fuck. Marry. Kill., it means something more than the forty minutes of the great good time it gives off. Grab the album here.

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