It Hits Different: Slope’s Freak Dreams


Kick it!

Pg. 99’s legendary Document #8 opens with a quote from Kurt Cobain that was always an organizing principle for the band: “Punk rock should mean freedom, liking and accepting anything that you like. Playing whatever you want. As sloppy as you want. As long as it’s good and it has passion.” Pg. 99 certainly had freedom and passion, flirted frequently with sloppiness, and was, of course, good. I always found the last line odd, though, because it’s out of order. It would follow more closely if it instead read, “As long as it has passion, it’s good.” Or might be good. That is, goodness, however we define it, can only result from a passionate pursuit, in the sense that a passionate expression of artistic freedom is a good thing (insofar that we value art and expression.) Being “good” as a pre-requisite—for punk rock or anything else—is an impossibility, a preemptory and violating valuation that cuts against the very ethos of Cobain’s sentiment and undermines the very possibility that the freedom of punk rock might produce something as chaotically and legendarily great as Pg. 99. Simply, there is no Pg. 99 if the band set out to be “good” before they set out to do whatever it is they did accomplish.

The same can be said about Duisburg, Germany’s Slope. After releasing a one-off video for the titular track “Freak Dreams” in June 2023, the 5-piece funked-out hardcore unit finally dropped the Freak Dreams LP the first week of February on Century Media Records. Slope has been making technicoloured, kaleidoscopic videos since “9/5” and “Goodbye Mr. Dandy” from 2017’s Losin’ Grip, and “Freak Dreams” is no different. We get beautiful flowers, floating eyes, a rolling silver ball, vocalists Simon and Fabio cruisin’ the streets, and the band either posed as a portrait or soft-steppin’ it in a bedroom while they kick out jams harder than MC5. With its infectious mix of funk, groove, hardcore, psychedelia, jam, and ’80s metal, “Freak Dreams” as a song is as kaleidoscopic as its video, shifting shapes and colours and vibes as you turn it over again and again, something else always coming to light.

It wasn’t until a teaser single for “WHY SAD” dropped on Spotify in January 2024 that we could all feel confident we’d get the band’s first record since 2021’s Street Heat. Featuring the already released “Freak Dreams” as well as three major tracks and an interlude from the upcoming LP, “WHY SAD” was the amuse bouche we needed, particularly because “It’s Tickin’,” “True Blue,” and “WHY SAD” are three of the album’s strongest tracks. “It’s Tickin’,” in particular, is the kind of song that’ll get you jumpin’ on the furniture with your muddy trainers on. The one-two-three punch of “Kick it!” into a bark into the main riff landing like a sock to the jaw is enough to hit the rewind button a few times before a spacey Jimmie’s Chicken Shack bridge leads straight into the first verse, an expertly kicked rhyme that ends with a Bad Brainsian “OOH!” that might get fools stomped into the concrete if the attitude wasn’t so positive. From there, the band finds a pocket in sleazy ’80s metal akin to Van Halen or even Motley Crüe. It’s a whirlwind affair.

It’s that kind of heterodoxic approach—that absolute reckless abandon for mixing oil and water influences—that makes Slope such a feel-good punk rock acid trip. To hell with trying to be cool: just find the freedom in liking and accepting what you like and end up cool as hell anyways. If earlier albums saw a hardcore band bringing together funk and hip-hop, Freak Dreams flips the script to foreground Red Hot Chili Peppers or Fishbone over the band’s East Coast Hardcore sound. Songs like “Nosedive” are a trombone away from playing an SEC frat house, until the last 30 seconds or so and the pit gets cleared out. This then lets the following “Hectic Life” sound that much more like Detroit legends RZL DZL in all their Beastie Boys glory. The flashes of hardcore might be fewer and farther in between, but they burn extra bright because of it.

From the saucy snaps in “True Blue” through the skeezy rock riffs of “WHY SAD” and the 311-on-a-bad-batch-of-HGH oomph of “Ain’t Easy,” Slope time and time again prove that they’re whimsical saunterers through the capacious and gleeful playground they’ve made of the world. Such “discoveries and joys can only be given to those who stroll with an open mind,” writes Frédéric Gros in A Philosophy of Walking. These discoveries and joy “will come spontaneously to one who, summoned by spring sunshine, joyously abandons his work just to get a little time alone. One who goes out with a light heart, and a wish to put aside for a moment his labour and his fate.” Gros is writing about strolling literally, as particular genre of walking, but we can hear the exciting and expansive resonance between Gros, Cobain, Pg. 99, and Slope. Not only have Slope been warring against the “heartless shit of a 9-5” their whole career, they saunter whimsically throughout Freak Dreams, untethered from soul-crushing labours, coming to us full of joyous abandon and springing sunshine.

This is Slope’s 360 Funk Vision that just hits different. This is the type of openness that, in the case of Slope and Gros’s stroller alike, can lead to a punk rock life. It’s not a traditional punk rock aesthetic, but it’s a unique and emphatic punk rock freedom. Strolling and rolling as the band does, Freak Dreams is the “rediscovery of the lightness of being, the sweetness of a soul freely reconciled to itself and to the world.” I can’t think of anything more countercultural, more punk rock, more hardcore, more metal, funkier, cooler, or more sick as fuck, than that.

Freak Dreams is out now
via Century Media Records
Get the digital via bandcamp
or the CD/LP via the label distro.
Be cool in whatever way that means for you!

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