The combination of Corin Tucker’s voice – rich and clear, one that somehow sounds truthful – and Peter Buck’s guitar playing is like coming home to a glorious log fire: so warm and welcoming you simply want to feel its toasty glow. Buck races through the styles here – from the angry, squalling blues of the title track; the classic REM jangle of Only Lovers Are Broken; the spindly indie of One Flew East; the furious roar of Last Chance County – but keeps within the boundaries of alt-rock. It’s comfortingly familiar, but played with conviction and expertise.
Tucker’s writing is bracingly direct, and furiously political. At times, that works perfectly. November Man pairs squalling, roiling music with a bitter condemnation of Donald Trump that’s just indirect enough to work. Angels is a compassionate portrayal of a migrant family pulled apart by border security. In Last Chance County, Tucker is a worker stuck on the bus going to a dead-end job and seething at her life. At other times, though, it can feel a little ham-fisted. The Elliott, for example, has a gorgeous guitar figure from Buck, which transforms into a lofty chorus, and Tucker’s topline melody is lovely, but the lyric – about the threat to Elliott state forest in Oregon – is so on-the-nose it reads like a letter to a local newspaper: “Old growth is special, our job is to preserve it.” Still, the sense of instant musical and lyrical reaction – nothing overthought – is what gives Filthy Friends their energy.