When you’re away from where you grew up for a sufficiently long period of time and outside the contexts that reared you and on to something that makes more sense for the life you want or when circumstances force you onward, sometimes going back is an odd and alien experience because you’re forced to confront the fact that what is considered normal and acceptable is often contingent on context and not universal down to the local patois. UK group the Rec explores this phenomenon regarding the town in which they grew up, Oswestry in Shropshire located on the border between England and Wales, on the song “(I don’t understand) town slang.” The members of the band moved away from Oswestry in the 1980s and one can only imagine the culture shock when maybe you’ve been somewhere that isn’t trapped a little in the past or maybe a little culturally hermetic.
The story set to a dynamic beat with a surreal melody of shimmery synths and psychedelic keyboards like a post-punk song reminiscent of Sleaford Mods and its own vocal cadence and tone. The vocalist sings of having spent half a day driving to town and then crossing “the line into the alien zone” and running into blank expressions and thousand yard stares when he spoke because he wasn’t speaking in a way that made a lot of sense to the locals. Isn’t this his hometown? Then he escapes the situation and tries to find his brother’s place but getting lost and in fear of more encounters with people speaking “town slang,” some of which echoes in a chaotic, jumbled fashion that comes at you from all angles before the main melody of the song reasserts itself. The chorus about town slang making the singer feel “uncomfortable” might suggest some of this slang seems regressive the way some people use expressions and words so casually and unmindful that the rest of the world has moved on. The song ends with the singer relating how he went to the “taxi rank” to get some gas and then to drive as fast as possible to get to “a place that I can understand.” In a way the song is like a miniature horror story. Like the movie Get Out where you know something’s wrong but instead of the scenario in that movie it’s a culture you can no longer relate to and where you will never again fit in even if you try down to the local slang. It’s the classic you can never really go home story but told with a wry humor paired with a transporting electro post-punk melody that evolves throughout the song and on its own helps to keep your attention focused on the story and its mixing in keen local details and references. The song also seems to hint that sometimes you are stuck in that situation but aware that you don’t belong but the people in the Rec understand. Fans of the Happy Mondays and the aforementioned Sleaford Mods will find much to like here. Listen to the song below and follow the Rec at the links below.