Supergroups always seem like a good idea, but seldom do they amount to anything other than the sum of their parts. And Filthy Friends have a lot of parts: Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney; Peter Buck of R.E.M.; Kurt Bloch of The Fastbacks; Bill Rieflin of Ministry, King Crimson, and R.E.M.; and Scott McCaughey of Young Fresh Fellows. (Veteran drummer Linda Pitmon also fills in.) That’s a lot of names and affiliations, but the big attraction here is the union of Tucker and Buck, an inimitable vocalist and one of the most influential guitarists of the alternative era.
The duo shares songwriting credits on Invitation, and its hooky power-pop—sometimes jangly (“Faded Afternoon,” “Any Kind Of Crowd”), sometimes aggressive (“No Forgotten Son,” the “Holiday In The Sun”-esque guitar of “Makers”)—nicely combines the songwriters’ styles. “Windmill” sounds like a Sleater-Kinney B-side or Corin Tucker solo track, and the excellent “Any Kind Of Crowd” could pass for late-’80s R.E.M. With Tucker and Buck sharing songwriting credits, it’s unclear if they both wrote lyrics, though many of them reflect Tucker’s long concern with social justice: the “Your time has passed, old white men” attack of “Despierata”—its “Despierta, senador” chorus translates to “Wake up, senator”—to the specter of Black Lives Matter in “No Forgotten Son.”
Tucker is a sharp writer, her lyrics generally avoiding cliché and pat constructions, whether she’s polemic or personal. Invitation’s weaker moments veer in that direction, like the chorus of “Second Life” (“And if you run with me / A second life so free / Let’s see what we can be / Another chance you’ll see”) or the repetition of “Come Back Shelley” (“She’s left home again / Don’t know if we’ll see her again / Come back Shelley, let us sort you out / Give us one more chance to figure it out”). Who knows whether those came from Tucker or Buck, but Invitation is strong enough as a whole to breeze past those weaker moments. Filthy Friends’ debut provides exactly what their lineage promises, and when it comes to supergroups, that amounts to coming out ahead.