Couch Slut – You Could Do It Tonight


New York noise rock unit, Couch Slut, write musical short stories with the straight-faced humour of William S. Burroughs. These stories are often in a spontaneous, unedited format like someone you meet at a bus station who asks for some spare change and then tells you their disturbing life story of abuse and addiction in no more than three minutes. You realise after the encounter, that this person has no time for self-pity or introspection. The trauma lives within them. It’s normal. They don’t know any different.

Led by the resilient and sardonic, Megan Osztrosits, Couch Slut return with album number three after 2020’s Take a Chance on Rock ‘n’ Roll expanded their fanbase and gave them more reasons to issue trigger warnings to their listeners. This time they present us with stories about home invasions, backstage rape, and murderous teenagers, and they maintain a constant level of self-empowering torment throughout the thirty-eight minutes of this record. Opener, ‘Couch Slut Lewis’, harbours a doom metal bassline in the mix like a dormant volcano experiencing the first signs of rebirth as Megan finds the right moment to make her first disembowelled scream. How does she grate her voice with so much agony without damaging her vocal cords? Yet the most surprising feature of this song is its easy groove. You can’t say the same for the guitars – the two six-stringers in the band are offended by anything conventional coming out of their amps. Your nerves will feel this music like a neck pain that develops after months of unacknowledged stress.

It’s not clear where some of the songs and end and others begin. At what point did ‘Ode to Jimbo’ take over from track one? Clearly, noise rock is the natural successor to the grunge legacy, only far more extreme and less inclined to care about winning praise from the songwriting community. The difference between Couch Slut and most metal and rock bands is the way they treat their guitars like blow torches rather than extensions of their genitalia. ‘Wilkinson’s Sword’ is like an extreme version of garage rock with more padding and higher levels of distortion. Here, they dare to flirt with a melodic sequence of arpeggiated riffs as Megan puts her voice through a grinder. The bass provides the heavy low end and allows the guitars to conspire in the background like cracks in the ceiling that will bring down the entire building once they give way. Think of it as rock music for the Drugstore Cowboy crowd who have every reason to feel overlooked (and perhaps misunderstood) for most of the last thirty years.

Hostility and pain are the two things Couch Slut externalise, yet they also have a sharp sense of humour. The storytelling element in ‘The Donkey’ will leave you with a confused smirk. Imagine Lydia Lynch at the microphone as noisy guitars and grunting basslines flood your ears. Megan narrates her stories like Mikee Goodman of SiKth – she’s always one syllable away from collapsing into clinical madness. “So, the next day I’m going to see my friend Greg in Williamsport, who killed himself shortly after this, and I go out to my car, and I notice my trunk has a dent in it,” she announces into the microphone as if giving a police interview.

This album’s main flaw is that it does not include a palette cleanser to expand the emotions beyond rage and self-harm. ‘Energy Crystals for Healing’ makes you want to spill your guts in an act of humiliation for others to watch with a compassion you pretend to dislike. The guitars root for the higher-register rhythms in this song, but the pauses bristle with feedback. Do you want to experience the pain of rising from a mattress with toothpaste in your hair and urine on your hoodie as you wake up at a house party and recognise none of the guests?

Closing track, ‘The Weaversville Home for Boys’, could be a short story for live recital at a hipster café. Raymond Carver is just as important to the identity of this band as the music of Pissed Jeans. Likewise, Hugh Selby Jnr’s world comes to life here in a subversive punk rock setting in ‘Downhill Racer’, like the infamous Tralala ready to be abused at the end of her day’s hustling. A welcome intrusion of demonic death metal vocals only enhances the thrill. Yet you don’t know whether to enjoy the dark content of the song or watch with horror?

Couch Slut make no apologies for splashing you in their spit and blood. But maybe spunk is a bit too much of a transgression for even the most hardened listener of confrontational music.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 19/04/2024

Record Label: Brutal Panda Records

Standout tracks: Couch Slut Lewis; Wilkinson’s Sword; The Weaversville Home for Boys

Suggested Further Listening: Atrocious Filth – Ovv (2023), Eyes – Congratulations (2023), Akersborg – Feelantropicoco (2023)