he Slip are maturing, and if Eisenhower isn’t quite as boring as its cosy, ‘50s Ike-liking title suggests, neither has it any of the war-torn Cassandran wisdom of its namesake. The weedy, spindly trio has grown out of the sophomoric multi-culti hubris that produced unexpected delights like “Rhythm and Gold” and “Honey Melon,” but hasn’t yet figured out what to replace it with, like college grads with summer internships, marking time.
At their worst, The Slip come off sounding like eunuched guidance counselors, required to pretend wisdom without anything to say. What precisely does it mean to “feel like Dylan Thomas,” as Brad Barr claims to on “Airplane/Primitive”? Is one to surmise that he feels dead? Alcoholic? Welsh? Nope, just that “It’s the day before the rest of my life.” Ah yes. That Dylan feeling.
Nor is Thomas the only Dylan cited on Eisenhower: Barr nicks the “I’ll know my song well” line from “A Hard Rain,” though to mysterious effect, since the song is a mish-mash of bland whiteboy prog that may be about landlords or, more generally, about love: “But all I’ve learned from love is that what you love can be what destroys you.” Take note, kids.
To be fair, the pastiche-manqué of “Suffocation Keep,” which wrestles with its weighty syllogistic platitudes (“People are strange, that’s why we’re strangers / Words go in, they don’t come out / The forest is big, that’s why we need rangers”) for a turgid five minutes, wisely and briefly enlists a somnolent banjo to fend off its own incipient insipidity before sinking beneath the waves.
There are some high points on Eisenhower, but they’re merely relative. On earlier records, The Slip functioned adeptly as a trio, enjoying the spaces in their sound and pulling together for the meaty bits. On Eisenhower, even the good bits like the instrumental “The Original Blue Air,” suffer from overdubs. “Airplane/Primitive” revisits the elasticated, non-specifically ethnic groove that distinguished earlier records, but unlike its predecessors hews rather too closely to verse-chorus orthodoxy, a stolid harmonica jam notwithstanding. It is distinctly possible that The Slip, whose reputation is built on their live act, have something up their sleeve to redeem these songs on stage, but that’s no excuse for turning out a record flavored like dishwater.