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Album Review: Slowthai - UGLY

Slowthai's latest leans into post-punk to raucous results.

By George Dean, Second Year English & History

Slowthai always knows how to make his listener mosh around manically (as in the dishevelled jubilance of ‘Feel Good’), cry sombrely (exemplified in the heart-splintering 'UGLY'), whilst simultaneously reflecting on Britain’s deep cut social issues and class alienation (embodied in ‘Never Again’).

This spectrum of emotions is achieved to an exceeding standard in the space of a densely expansive 38 minutes, in his highly anticipated new album UGLY.

Delving further into the realm of wonderfully brutish guitar rhythms and stripped down battered backing rhythms, the album illustrates Ty as bridging the gap between grime and punk. It offers an equally rich and rewarding musical experience to a fan of Skepta as it would be to that of The Clash.

UGLY Album Cover | Interscope Records

Ty’s post-punk potential had hitherto been glimpsed in tracks such as his punchy anthem ‘Deal Wiv It’ and the tantalisingly raucous ‘Doorman’, but this capability came to its full fruition in UGLY. It solidifies his dynamic and disruptive presence within alternative music.  

The record at times veers into raw nihilist-tinted chaos demonstrated in the paranoid, harum-scarum energy of ‘Selfish’. Ty’s unique perspective on the world is composed of a difficult upbringing combined with a developed insight into a music industry tainted by greed and corporate interest. This enables him to speak to the disillusionment of Britain’s younger generation who feel marginalised by the country’s political and economic establishment.

This energy builds upon the sentiments of Ty’s infant album, Nothing Great About Britain (2019), released in a socio-political environment swathed by the recent spectres of Brexit and the re-emerging far-right, both of which exposed the entrenched division, alienation, and bigotry of 21st century British society.

Since his first album, Ty has transitioned from not only portraying political disillusionment but also psychological disaffection, depicted in the vulnerable, lurching lyrical delivery of ‘Falling’: “You ever feel like you’re driftin’ through space?”

Ty’s discography has progressed towards increasingly introspective music. Albeit it was already clear that he had this in his arsenal, through tracks from his second album TYRON such as ‘Feel Away’, which gently uncovers a tale of young love’s adversities, and the melancholically wistful ‘Push’.

However, Ty’s storytelling has matured since TYRON, becoming increasingly vivid and nuanced.

By re-sculpting his artistic focus to mental health issues, Ty has enriched his relationship with his young fan base. He demonstrated his tender capacity for articulating heartbreak and bodily insecurity in UGLY’s raspingly melodic titular track: “Said that you loved me and you make me feel ugly”.

The suffocatingly electric intimacy of his £1 gigs has become a staple of Ty’s album release process, epitomising his anti-establishment spirit and outsider status. Paying homage to his foundational fan base, he lit up left-behind provincial towns, undertaking a quest from Sunderland to his home kingdom of Northampton.

I was fortunate to secure tickets to the penultimate show of his ‘Best Night Of Your Life’ tour, on the night of the album release, no less. Taking place at Moles in Bath, the venue’s compact capacity of 300 people married perfectly with the intense dynamism of Ty’s performance.

Featured Image: George Muncey

Have you listened to UGLY?