Something Slanted This Way Comes
Artist: The Slants
Produced by: The Slants
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
The Portland, Oregon-based band known as The Slants have come a long way since their first album, Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts, hit the record stores in 2007. When founder and bassist Simon Tam (stage name: Simon Young) filed to trademark the band’s name in 2010, he never could have imagined that it would cause a legal battle that would take five years to overcome. He had named the band to make a statement about racial and cultural issues in the country, but a trademark examiner denied the request saying that the term “The Slants” was disparaging. After numerous appeals in court, using Freedom of Speech arguments, the band won the right to a trademark of their name.
According to Simon, “While the legal fight was extremely important for our band, it was also a distraction. We often had to put the recording on hiatus so that we could focus on pressing legal matters. In all reality, this record probably should have been released much earlier, but we were busy in Washington, D.C taking on the Department of Justice. At the same time, it really allowed us to reflect on our priorities and what we wanted to accomplish with our music. It redoubled our focus and drive to tour Asia, something that we've been planning to do since 2008 - and now we're finally doing it.” Thus, a new album comes our way – Something Slanted This Way Comes.
The band has changed some since its inception. Simon is still here and so is Tyler Chen on drums, but they now have Ken Shima on vocals and Joe X. Jiang on guitar. Thus, the sound has changed a bit. For this album, The Slants decided to re-work some of the songs from their previous full-length albums, including tracks from Slanted Eyes, Slanted Hearts, Pageantry and The Yellow Album. According to Simon, “Rather than just being a typical ‘best of’ album, we went back to re-record and re-imagine the songs. It gave us a chance to reflect the musical growth of our band as well as reflect our actual lineup. It also allowed us to work with producer Stephan Hawkes who helped make our music sound bigger than ever…Ken's vocals and Joe's guitar playing have definitely bring out new aspects of our music. Tyler wasn't on our first record, so it was incredible to hear those old songs brought to life with his playing.”
When I first listened to this album, I thought, “I’ve already heard these songs, why would I want to buy this album if I already have them?” Then, I listened to Something Slanted This Way Comes again and I had my answer – because the songs may be similar to tracks from The Slants’ old albums, but they are most definitely not the same. There are differences: some subtle, like the re-working of electronic sound, and some huge, like the complete overhaul of guitar-work and vocals.
If you are a fan of The Slants, this is not just one of those anthologies that takes the best of a bands work and slaps it together for a price. This is a work of passion, retooling songs and retelling the stories the band wants you to hear. Something Slanted This Way Comes is definitely worth the money to pick up.