The Thirst is Real
Los Angeles’ filthy electronic trio Ssleaze aren’t fucking around. Unless you mean “fucking around” really literally, in which case yeah, they’re doing a bunch of that. While we’re a couple decades removed from the assumption that electronic music is made by well-appointed Europeans in pristine studios, it’s still not that common to hear something quite as filthy as The Thirst is Real, lyrically or sonically. Just like the Shitty Beatles, it’s not just a clever name: Ssleaze as an apt descriptor for what you hear when you cue the album up, with the extra “s” presumably referring to “sex” or “sadomasochism” or “sodomy” or all three depending on the track.
I suppose you could nominally define what Ssleaze do as a rough and ready form of electro, albeit one that owes as much to the sordid end of punk as much as it does say, Miss Kittin. This is a far cry from the similarly deviant-minded gentility of Die Form (to pick an example out of a hat), and closing in on the unhinged quality of a live Suicide performance, one where they handed out poppers at the door and that was performed under threat of a police raid. In practice that means that these songs feel pretty underproduced, but that works in their favour: the moaning vocals of “Vanity Shower” are a perfect match for the grinding synth and rigid drum programming, and the low-rent club overture “Boy Pu$$y” is extra seedy for the lack of sonic adornment.
If the picture being painted by this description sounds even vaguely like the sort of cutesy, giggle-bait synth music that gets peddled as transgressive to the unadventurous, allow me to put stake through the heart of that notion right now. This stuff is by and large pretty mean, and even when it’s not being overtly sexual like on the twisting uptempo “Witch Hunt” it’s got an unpleasant and aggressive edge to it. And that’s really what makes Ssleaze kind of appealing: once you get past the immediacy of titles like “SS Daddy” and “Puppy Play”, there’s still a payload of audio grit to wade through, distorted vocals that are half come-on and half vicious tongue-lashing and squelchy analogue synth that vacillates between trying to move your ass and suckerpunch you in your swimsuit areas. Like the song “No Shame” implies, this is all delivered without an ounce of irony, if not a tiny smidgen of camp.
I’ll spell it out for the folks in the cheap seats: this record is dirty, and in more ways than I can probably describe accurately. That Ssleaze can sustain the debauchery for 13 tracks is impressive, steeped as it is in the sort of thing that is likely to send a lot of casual listeners running to the hills. I’m not even sure who to recommend The Thirst is Real to, except that if it sounds appealing based on this description, you’ll likely find it enjoyable. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go take a shower.