Album Reviews

Slowthai – UGLY

(Method) UK release date: 3 March 2023

Dark, punishing, intriguingly produced and brilliantly executed, emotional power abounds

Slowthai - UGLY In 2019 Tyron Frampton released his debut album Nothing Great About Britain, and something was amiss. There were some interesting ideas but they were interspersed with weak homages to his influences and cliched poses of rebellion. In short, he was playing it too safe. Fast-forward a few years and that is definitely not the case here on UGLY. On his third album the listener delves so deep into Slowthai’s personal issues that the experience isn’t just voyeuristic, it’s claustrophobic. The closest comparison for this level of intensity in rap music is perhaps Danny Brown, but even his wildest albums leave more room for sober reflection. UGLY is catharsis central.

Producer Dan Carey, of Kae Tempest, Nick Mulvey, Fontaines DC and Black Midi fame, infuses the tracks with intriguing elements, like the fizzy pentatonic synths on Feel Good or the erratic overtones of Falling, producing an accompaniment that frequently feels ominous and chaotic. Slowthai raps, sings and screams his way through the record, periodically addressing himself on tracks like Tourniquet and Fuck It Puppet (“I’m depressed (no you’re not) want to kill myself (good / you wouldn’t do it anyway, bro, you need a push)”). Never Again relays a Stan-esque narrative of an ex-girlfriend and the attachment he still feels towards her, and Selfish paints a nihilistic picture of social hierarchies while acknowledging his own status.

The krautrock-tinged Wotz Funny feels like a settled score, the bleak character sketches reminiscent of earlier Slowthai material, but with a newfound artistry that elevates them. Opening track Yum is another definite highlight, as frantic hedonistic lyrics ring out over acidic bass and a pounding techno beat. Advice is relayed from his therapist, which one might expect to be the start of some loose concept or narrative, but this is promptly dismissed and the meltdown continues. In fact, the closest thing to a resolution is the closing track 25% Club, with mellower guitar strums, a lo-fi drum machine loop and lyrics about a relationship gently hinting at how our protagonist could find some peace of mind.

UGLY certainly isn’t a pleasant listen, and at various points it’s too extreme to be categorised as rap or rock, but many of these tracks are brilliantly executed and their emotional power and impact put Slowthai in a unique position. All we can hope is that he has found a way out of his woes in real life.

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More on Slowthai
Slowthai – UGLY
Slowthai – TYRON
Slowthai – Nothing Great About Britain