Higgledy Piggledy is the second release from Ian Black’s Slug, following 2015’s Ripe. Where RIPE was a thoroughly great record that perhaps was stylistically indebted to fellow Wearsiders Field Music – Black was part of Field Music’s live band for years) – Higgledy Piggledy is a much more coherent, confident exploration of Black’s profoundly odd imagination.
Where RIPE skirted around it, Higgledy Piggledy – lyrically and musically – is an exploration of the chaotic pockets of our time: disorientating political double speak, fake news, and the current leader of the free world are all addressed fairly explicitly through Black’s austere falsetto. Highlight ‘Basic Aggression’ is a hook laden meditation on the dogmatic nature of political discourse. It’s not all doom and gloom though; there’s a carnal tenderness to a lot of these songs, most obviously recalling Prince. Black has (with tounge placed in cheek) spoken of his intention to write ‘sexy’ songs- and he has succeeded here. For all the songs are politically and sociologically preoccupied, much of the music fizzes with a sensuous energy.
Really, it is the music that is the most remarkable achievement of Higgledy Piggledy, and Black’s ability to assimilate a broad musical vocabulary and virtuosity with an undeniable pop directness. ‘You Don’t Need To Wake Up‘ contains an oddball guitar riff that Tim Smith would be proud of, ‘Arbitrary Lessons In Custom’ takes ominous synths and a Middle-Eastern string arrangement and hammers them into shape to form one of the most infectious moments on the record. There’s the resplendent ‘Humming and Hawing’, a song defiant in its melancholy, clothed in gorgeous bursts of woodwind and intricate percussion. ‘Petulia’ is another song that wouldn’t sound out of place in Cardiacs’ back catalogue, sharing their predilection for warped, childish imagery.
What is an additional, noticeable step-up from RIPE is the level of attention to detail put into lyrics and delivery; the mellifluous of the delivery sometimes feeling like an extra hook. You get the impression that the sound of words has been given as much consideration as any other musical component.
Recorded and produced entirely by Black, it’s no surprise that Higgledy Piggledy is a much more convincing expression of his vision. It’s a compulsively listenable collection of songs, absolutely fizzing with melody and ideas. It’s an astonishingly confident, concise and direct record of great depth- an effervescent, colourful joy- and an incredibly exciting indication of Black’s growth in confidence as a profoundly original songwriter.
Higgledy Piggledy is released on 13th April through Memphis Industries.