Sioux Falls are from Portland, Oregon, a band who are not afraid to take their time with things. Their latest album, Rot Forever, is 16 songs long, some of which stretch well over six minutes, tumultuous rides of quiet to loud and everything in between. This could test the patience of some listeners, but to us, just like Titus Andronicus with their latest epic, it’s great to hear a band do what they want with their music. Just the fact I can imagine some grumpy music critic saying “Rot Forever is too long blah blah blah” is reason for me to like it.
Sioux Falls’ sound reads like a melting pot of the last twenty years of rock music. Taking the indie rock of the likes of Built to Spill et al., the band add thoughtful emo (like The Hotelier) and smart pop punk vibes (think LVL UP etc.) to create something wonderfully varied and entertaining, cycling through these genres not just between songs but within them. Opener ‘3fast’ is spiky and boisterous, complete with sometimes ragged and shouty vocals which bring to mind Young Jesus, while ‘Dom’ is more poppy, with lyrics about”spending too much time on the internet” and sauerkraut. Both come with references to mental pain and physical abuse that are woven into the songs with a certain indifference, as if such things are not inconsequential but certainly unsurprising.
“he is a creep
that fucks his kids
they hit their friends
and disrupt class their teacher says
i don’t know just where i sit
towards the back a little bit
she had a big newfie named dom
he died young now she’s a mom
i hope that she is doing ok
i think she is in her own way
i hope she is doing ok”
‘Chain of Lakes’ follows a similar pattern, though the vocals here are softer and high-pitched, a world away from the throaty yelps elsewhere on the album. ‘Past Tense’ is ferocious and anthemic, and ‘In Case it Gets Lost’ equally so, a crashing, cymbal-heavy track with raw and desperate vocals delivering some rather bleak lyrics. However ‘Practice Space’ emerges something different, a loose-limbed and easygoing indie rock track that brings to mind LVL UP, with am indescribable feeling that somehow everything will be okay.
“i feel so october
and what exactly is a human anyway?
i think you’re cooler when you’re sober
swimming out amongst the waves”
‘Dinosaur Dying’ is another track that brings a little emotive pop to the thrashy punk, before the second half of the album begins with the epic ‘Copy/Paste’, almost seven and a half minutes of pounding rock and roll that builds to almost post-rock peaks. Next is ‘San Francisco Earthquake’, my current favourite, a song about seeing Porches with a bunch of arty kids, about finding moments of joy when growing up in a world of technology, of constant viewing and being viewed, of impossible dreams and terrible nightmares. It concludes with a wonderfully cathartic finale, group vocals in a desperate chorus which feels like a plea from a generation. “Make me something more than whole.”
‘Crushed’ has slacker vibes, charting a wasted sunny day, growing into flailing yells, while ‘Soaked in Sleep’ ins detached and benumbed and ‘McConoughey’ presents entertainment as a kind of drug which, if nothing else, passes the time. “Guts and gore on my computer screen,” he sings. “I’m semi-ok and i’m staring into you”. ‘Your Name’s Not Ned’, with its almost mathy guitars, sounds similarly removed, the vocals delivered in a bored drawl, though this hides lyrics both impassioned and fragile, the opposite of bored, a person so on edge with the whole deal of existing that they are forced to act bored in order to halfway function.
“sometimes i hate myself
for putting stock in stupid stuff
i can’t escape my head
she’s so cool but i’m an idiot
she’ll just slip away
you’re as alone as yesterday
you woke up by yourself
called your mom and brushed your teeth real well”
‘If You Let It’ is a tortured slow burn, rippling with genuine emotion, Isaac Eiger’s vocals cracking in to a growl, the periods of negative space eventually coalescing into a violent and cathartic climax and perhaps the most direct instance of comfort and reassurance on the album: “it goes away / if you let it / some Saturday / you’ll forget it / you’ll be out climbing with your friends / the sky so blue / the sun will shine on you / you’ll be released”. ‘The Winner’, with its 90s alternative rock swagger and a joyously defiant slacker air, feels like a postscript from the artist, an attempt to remain free of the shackles of irony (even if the final sound recording undermines it):
“i just wanna believe that what i’m doing
means something to someone else
before i die and rot forever”
On Rot Forever, Sioux Falls’ narrator is centred within the stories of which they sing, sounding like another confused player in violent, unfair game operating to rules outside of anyone’s understanding. In the face of bewilderment they turn to anger and sorrow and joy, feelings easy to recognise, easy to submit to, decidedly non-ambivalent chemical reactions which remind them that they’re still alive. Also, in between these peaks, they find something else, fleeting moments of small, strange comfort which, with a bit of coaxing and a lot of hard work, might just last long enough to make all this worthwhile.