Clint Slate is an artist that isn’t too keen on being categorised. A quick scan of his influences reads like a who’s who of rock royalty, and he draws from those influences liberally. Genre is not a word that fazes Clint and, to be honest, I find that kind of exhilarating.
Musicians and critics alike are obsessed with putting artists in boxes and confining them there. It’s either Pop or Metal. It’s either EDM or Punk. According to our modern labeling system it can never be both. But it has not always been that way.
For example, take a look at the monster acts of the 60’s and 70’s. I’m talking about the likes of Queen, Bowie, Roxie Music, and many, many more. Sure they were rooted as Rock acts but, by taking a closer look at their work, it’s very clear that these were artists who saw music as one great big free for all, where nothing was out of the question.
If it could be played and it sounded good then it’s going on the album. The results were often wonderful as seen when Queen flirted with Flamenco on ‘Who Needs You’, or Bowie went full-on drum and bass on his ‘Earthling’ album. It’s no wonder that these artists are so enduring. They literally had something for everyone.
Clint Slate’s third album ‘Dragons’ aims to rekindle the magic of those classic artists and albums with his own unique blend of opposing styles.
The opening track ‘Sunset, Nova, and Earth comes across like a collaboration between Beck and U2. It oscillates between dusty and operatic and is lyrically intriguing. It’s an eye-opening introduction that establishes that clint is an artist with a vast intellectual well to draw from.
Next is ‘Reconciliation Tv’ with its Bowie-Esque grandeur. This song rings out like the end of the world with its big and doomy guitar solo. This vibe continues through the next song ‘Ghost America’, which easily could be an outtake for U2’s Achtung Baby. It’s apparent here that Clint sounds very much like Bono in both his voice and inflections. Not easy to do, and clint has it in him to soar with some big notes just like the legendary U2 frontman.
On to the quirky ‘Dead Noise’ with its surrealist drone. Clint takes a delicate motif and riffs on it ad-nauseum with his own special operatic weirdness. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable trip into madness, before we open up into ambient sparsity with the haunting, Radiohead-inspired ‘Dark Is Wire’.
‘The Sixth Trip Plan’ is sunny and uptempo, providing a break in the intensity before we plunge into ‘Obstacles’ which finds Slate pondering pensively over some beautifully fragile guitar, opening up gloriously as we progress. Throughout the course of this album, I remained intrigued by what Clint has to say and the unique methods he uses to get his point across.
After this duo of contextually conventional songs, we are back to sonic experimentation with ‘Systems and Batteries’, its sinister vocal is reminiscent of Trent Reznor as it flirts with glitchy drum and bass.
The album concludes with ‘Smash’. It’s a glorious slab of psychedelic pop-rock with swirling harmonies, virtuoso guitar solos, and a memorable refrain. An ambitious song that is a fitting end to an ambitious record.
I found ‘Dragons’ to be a quirky record that is deep and entertaining in equal measures. It may have been exhausting to process at times but in a totally fun and challenging way. There is a lot going on here and for that reason, ‘Dragons’ has some serious replay value. Whether you are a fan of rock, pop, folk, electro, or some mad surrealism, you will find something of interest. It’s all here.
It takes a lot of charisma to hold all this together and this artistic pick and the mix is controlled admirably by the deeply enigmatic figure that is Clint Slate. Commanding over proceedings like a sonic Willy Wonka, the unwavering enthusiasm he exudes while skipping from idea to idea is contagious.
Once you get a few songs deep into this record it becomes clear that this isn’t reckless genre-hopping, Clint’s genre is the music itself. He uses all the tools, techniques, and guises at hand to explore an exhausting amount of combinations, flavours, and concoctions, like a master chef spicing a luscious stew.
It’s euphoric, interesting, and tasking. Just as it should be.