Released March 3, 2023 via Method Records
Reviewed March 28, 2023
Top tracks (based on community voting)
Yum (57%), UGLY (48%), Tourniquet (39%)
slowthai’s rise over the past few years has been largely driven by the sheer grittiness of his sound and his personality. His debut, Nothing Great About Britain, was as politically-charged as could be, honing in on the political crises surrounding the UK. Unapologetic, brash, and filled with rage, slowthai infused the spirit of punk into his own unique brand of hip-hop. His second record, TYRON, took a bit of a step back in this regard, opting for a more personal, reflective, and scaled-back approach. With UGLY, things seem to have come full circle; slowthai embraces his rough edges and leans into his punk influences stronger than he ever has, while simultaneously juggling the angsty, rebellious side of personality and the vulnerable, introspective side.
UGLY comes out firing with its most explosive tracks in “Yum” and “Selfish.” These set the tone of the record with abrasive, menacing, and anxiety-inducing instrumentals. A complete departure from the sounds of NGAB and TYRON, slowthai dives headfirst into the sounds of synth-punk, dance-punk, and the like.
slowthai travels a downward spiral on UGLY as defiance has now transformed into what is almost an entire rejection of society and those around him. Lacking the ability to trust and searching for a sense of direction that never seems to be found leaves slowthai only able to find solace in temporary escapes like drugs and sex. These are the central themes of UGLY, in which slowthai documents a narrow, depressive worldview and the impossible battle of loving yourself within that. The emotions displayed are as raw and visceral as anything he’s written.
There are moments of reprieve from the abrasiveness on tracks like “Never Again,” “Falling,” and “25% Club,” among others, but they hardly offer a sense of optimism to balance out the emotional devastation that permeates UGLY. slowthai tests out his singing voice on these tracks—especially on “25% Club”—and presents a more reflective and vulnerable attitude. Not quite in opposition to misanthropic outlook of the album’s core, but an important change of perspective that shows slowthai doesn’t want be the cause hurt for others, or for himself.
UGLY is ugly. But UGLY is raw, and it is real. Where do you go after a life of trauma and you find yourself on a seemingly never-ending path of self-destruction? Does it mean anything if you can recognize it, but you have yet to change? You’ll never know the answer to any of these questions—and it will never matter—if you can’t break the cycle. Step one: u gotta love yourself. – Dominick (8.8/10)
slowthai's third studio album, UGLY, shows the more vulnerable side of Tyron Frampton. The side that's been battered and bruised, left to fend for itself. The side you don't show—the dark side of the soul. With what is his most unhinged project to date, slowthai captures the distressing sights and sounds of a manic headspace to frightening effect. It's the mental scars that tend to hang around. Scars of the skin become a reminder, mental scars a remainder. No bandages, stitches, or staples can close the cut, nevermind clean them. The dirt that festers under the skin takes on a septic edge the longer it goes unattended—emotional baggage weighs souls by the pound. UGLY personifies the harm in lack of self-love and the downturn that awaits anyone that fails to see that they're worth something. It can be a harrowing listen at times; honesty tends to rip things apart, though it eventually puts things back together. Treat yourself like something worth living for. It may be the hardest thing that you ever do. One step at a time, no matter how small the steps may seem. Otherwise, your addictions will eat you up. – Peter (8.5/10)
Dominick: 8.8/10 | Peter: 8.5/10 | Cam: 8/10 | DeVán: 8/10 | Jared: 8/10 | Pax: 7.7/10