Sheffield band Slash Fiction’s debut album ‘Gender, Trauma & Friendship’ tackles all three subjects in its title with aplomb as the band’s three songwriters openly discuss transformation, loss and queerness.
‘Pick My Stitches’ opens the album in melodic Hotelier-style fashion as chanted group vocals discuss how there’s ‘an earthquake in my chest’ and how this could be ‘our only shot’. ‘I’ll Get There If I Leave Everything But My Bones Behind’ follows with an intro full of potent hooks and an important, personal vow to the subject of the song – ‘I promise to love you if you can’t love yourself’ – before ‘How’s This for Heartbreak?’ calms things down with no less pain and angst. You can feel the emotion in every word as the band talk about feeling small, afraid and scared following the end of a relationship: ‘Feeling lonely by myself, feeling anxious with my friends and only got myself to blame’. These fears eventually evolve to a promise that everything will be okay by the end of the song.
‘Ten Feet Tall’ offers a change in direction into something more ethereal with effects-laden guitar, crashing drums and dreamy vocals about growing in adversity: ‘A sunflower can grow to be ten feet tall and so can I if I try, I don’t care what you say’. ‘Footnote’ continues in this more melancholic vein – but with an almost-celebratory, anthemic tone towards the end as Slash Fiction focus on the most important companions in life: ‘Blood isn’t thicker than love and my friends are the family I choose’. ‘The Lighthouse’ reminded us of the more refrained Los Camp songs (complete with glockenspiel) – ‘I’m stranded on an island and I won’t ever feel at peace until you sail across the ocean safely landed and with me again’ – before ‘The Space Between’ moves into more of an experimental emo space with important observations and discussion about gender identity: ‘Let’s pretend this body (my body) is my body. Let’s pretend just once that these hands could be the hands of the man of your dreams’.
‘Cross My Heart’ brings to mind acts including The Spook School and the Get-Up Kids as SF declare ‘I wanna be myself again’, even if to do that requires a certain level of pain’ before ‘Headaches’ offers a deeply personal account of the unexpected death of a friend from an aneurysm and a grandparent from cancer – and the lasting effect these experiences have had on the songwriter and their state of mind/understanding of mortality: ‘Now I focus on every twich in my head, every lightning headache and every rush of blood’; ‘I spend my life so afraid to die, I’m not sure I’m living.
‘Needle & Thread’ closes the record in style by asking the question ‘What if old haunts become new hopes?’ This is the sound of people trying to make sense of their own headspaces and roles in an increasingly fractured world – and learning to thrive despite all the barriers.