[DANCE ROCK] However constant and far-flung their touring—last year’s breakneck schedule capped by a New Year’s Eve jaunt through Kosovo entertaining the troops—the Slants remain Portland’s No. 1 dance-rock troupe and somehow manage to record another batch of propulsive, poignant ’80s-goth-meets-22nd-century-club-kid floor-fillers every so often. The Yellow Album, the band’s third self-released full-length, makes titular reference to famed White (the Beatles) and Black (Jay-Z) generational touchstones, but there’s an equally pertinent wink to the issues of ethnic identity that have long colored the best of the band’s work, won them adoring press coverage, and set in motion ongoing legal battles with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. The members of the Slants share an Asian heritage and, as with N.W.A. and countless other acts keen to subvert the language of prejudice, adopted the racial epithet with clear transformative intent, which went totally misunderstood by regulatory bureaucrats who’ve evidently never witnessed the multiracial throngs enthralled by the lunatic majesty of a Slants performance.
While the band may well be best experienced live, Slants releases always promise a few blistering, note-perfect singles. Starting with The Yellow Album’s first proper tune—hard-charging Thin-hipped Lizzy shout-along anthem “Con Kids,” an early favorite to incite small riots among the faithful at anime fests worldwide— there’s nary a lull this go-round. More to the point, the band’s songwriting dynamic has evolved considerably alongside the vocal prowess of frontman Aron Moxley. From the impassioned musings of “Adoption” to the swaggering “Rescue Me From My Own Heart,” there’s a new confidence and expansion of ambitions. Though eternally indebted to the old New Order-esque electro-grooves, the local quintet always avoided its genre mates’ twiddly annoyances and theatrical posturing while embracing a playful rawk abandon all their own. The federally protected trademark may await judicial discretion, but the Slants’ sonic brand has never sounded more distinct.
SEE IT: The Slants play Someday Lounge, 125 NW 5th Ave., with Suicide Notes and Oh Darling, on Friday, Nov. 9. 9 pm. $7. 21+.