Wingtip Sloat stuck to a D.I.Y. commitment.
In 1985, the core trio of what would become Wingtip Sloat were students in Charlottesville, playing together in a group called Empty Box. After a few years of performing at the University of Virginia and then in the D.C. suburb of Falls Church, they soon morphed into Wingtip Sloat, and with their proximity across the Potomac to the post-hardcore impact of Dischord Records, it’s no surprise that they started in that milieu. Like Fugazi and Pavement, the new band stuck to a D.I.Y. commitment.
Gradually, the combination of a lo-fi ambiance and the New Zealand quirky pop of the Flying Nun label widened their ambitions from tapes and self-released vinyl. Touring on the East Coast with Pavement, Thinking Fellers Union Local 282 and Sebadoh, their niche seemed secure. BBC DJ John Peel acclaimed Sloat in a 1993 interview with Rolling Stone. They covered such compatible influences and contemporaries as Swell Maps, Tall Dwarfs, the Clean, Sun City Girls, Galaxie 500 and Minutemen. Then, as they and their fans settled down to jobs and kids, they faded from the scene.
Sloat put out two solid full-length records on the D.C.-based VHF Records in the second half of the ‘90s. This label now compiles their new material into the 10-track 12” Purge & Swell and the 31 cuts from rehearsals as the Lost Decade. The results prove impressive. Many groups get together a generation or so after their prime. They often return to the studio and try to recapture their spark. The odds are that, much of the time, the result is something that sounded far fresher decades ago. Sloat beats the odds.
They exited the stage in 1998, but after Revolver Records gathered singles, EPs and odds and ends into Add This to Rhetoric in 2007, they began working on these new songs in 2015. Sure, the haul sweeps up instrumental and poetry snippets, but the rehearsal tapes do not sound markedly altered from the 10 tracks serving as the “studio” LP.
The Feelies come to mind on the opener, “Porch Song,” as a similarly experienced musical group considers a folksy mood, and a gently propulsive melody. “Ed From Oblivion” infuses the Minutemen-D.C. punk assault neatly. “Broken Cajun” recalls Pavement or Thinking Fellers with a false start into backwoods send-up before cruising into an accomplished rhythm smartly pacing a catchy and fully-realized tune.
There’s not a weak song among the 10. For the remaining 30-plus tracks, even the one-offs do not fall short of a respectable level. The covers speak to Sloat’s sharp ears and nimble playing. Eno’s delicate “Cindy Tells Me” turns even more hushed and fragile. Belle and Sebastian’s assured “Judy and the Dream of Horses” receives soft respectful treatment. Wire’s compatibly dignified “Outdoor Miner” gets an appropriate nod. On the other hand, you get Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe” as if it’s 1985 all over again at an all-ages Dischord concert. And with titles such as “I’m a City Boy, I Don’t Have to Go Through the Woods to Have a Good Time,” “Giddy in Palestine,” “The PGA Tour on ABC” and “Male Kleevage Karpet,” surely the sassy style of Pavement or the oddness of Sun City Girls persists as prickly as ever.
Guitarist Patrick Foster, bassist Andy Duboc and drummer David Bishop have been at this gig a long time, though they’ve often flown under the radar. This latest two-fer offers fans and newcomers a generous helping of work from a smart trio.