Future Slum is what I’d imagine Whores would sound like if they were fronted by Chris Cornell with a sore throat. Or maybe Nirvana if they married their grungy simplicity with the noise rock movement they weren’t (really) around for. No matter how you want to look at it, Future Slum by Backwoods Payback is an uncompromisingly dirty and honest rock album from a newly-minted trio that’s at the top of its game.
Backwoods Payback returned to the world in 2016 with Fire Not Reason after five years of no new material. It was their first album with ex-Alabama Thunderpussy drummer Erik Larson and their first as a trio. It’s interesting to compare Future Slum to Fire Not Reason because you can actually hear the band maturing between the releases. Fire Not Reason was high octane rock that constantly hit hard and employed touches of off-kilter rhythms to give portions of it a progressive feel in the vein of Corrosion Of Conformity. It was the sound of a band ecstatic to be back and it worked. Now Backwoods Payback is settling in to their new existence with Future Slum, which is the comedown from wildly throwing off all that energy into the world and really crafting each song to have its own personality.
Don’t get me wrong. Future Slum still has some complete ragers. Songs like “Pirate Smile” and “Generals” can probably make every person in the band’s hometown of West Chester instantly get up and beat the ever-loving piss out of one other, while closer “Lucky” essentially forces you to slow headbang. Even the non-psychedelic grunge rock latter half of “Lines” is sure to get a crowd moving as it ups the tempo with chugging snare rolls. But then you’ve got tracks like the smoldering effects-heavy spaciousness of “Cinderella,” the slow-motion sludge of “Whatever” featuring aggressive vocals from Mlny Parsonz of Royal Thunder, and the Nothing-esque shoegaze of “Big Enough” to bring you back down from the fervent enthusiasm of the latter grouping.
Variety is one thing, but Backwoods Payback is clearly conscious of their running order on the album. Future Slum is so damn easy to listen to front to back because the songs are so varied without being clustered together. Slowed down by “Cinderella”? Prepare to stand and fight, because “Generals” is about to kick your teeth in. Had fun singing along to the flannel-friendly radio jam “It Ain’t Right”? Well get ready to groove until your body hurts with the tom-heavy rhythms of “Threes.”
To keep heaping praise onto Future Slum, it just sounds good. Future Slum isn’t all gussied up in the studio to look pretty for release day. Backwoods Payback played the songs they wrote and seemingly altered nothing in the production phase. This is the sound of a band being a band. Vocals are completely human with wavering notes here and there, drums sound like drums rather than store-bought samples, and both the guitar and bass usher forth tumbling piles of filth, warts and all. Not to say there aren’t touches of reverb here an there to accentuate an atmospheric section, etc. – there are. The difference is that Backwoods Payback isn’t relying the on studio to make them sound good. They already do that. Production in this case is more or less a pair of proverbial sunglasses on an already grizzled and battle-worn face to up the badass factor into the “holy shit” category.
Future Slum is great. There are no songs that I found myself skipping after multiple listens. It’s just banger after banger in a few varying styles that come together for an album that you’re going to be instantly hooked into.
Buy Backwoods Payback here.