Release Date: Nov 5, 2013
Record label: Wichita
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, Indie Rock, Lo-Fi, Indie Pop, Alternative Singer/Songwriter, Punk-Pop, Twee Pop
Swearin”s gut-punch of an approach might give nods to countless bands and ages - 90s grunge is a big staple of their sound - but there aren’t many sporting Allison Crutchfield and co’s eventual knockout blow.It’s there in opener ‘Dust in the Gold Sack”s bent guitar notes, torn to the point where they’re holding on for dear life. It’s also present in the deranged ‘Glare of the Sun’, which clashes a stoner-approved aesthetic with darker mid-sections that wouldn’t come out of a standard guitar-amp set-up. Swearin’ go that further step.
Swearin's 2012 self-titled debut was a bright, fuzzy blanket of hooky pop-punk anchored by straightforward and emotionally blunt lyrics from joint singer/guitarist/songwriters Allison Crutchfield and Kyle Gilbride. More than an oversharing heart-on-the-sleeve approach, the songs seemed honest even in their sometimes bleak or mundane sentiments. The band's appeal came from the specific magic that happened when these unclouded lyrics met up with exciting, speedy musical backdrops.
On their 2012 self-titled debut album, Swearin' introduced themselves as nuanced purveyors of a particular sentiment, the kind newsmagazines and think-pieces would label "millennial." Ripping through 12 hook-heavy songs in 28 minutes, with Allison Crutchfield at the mic most of the time, the quartet emerged boldly, confronting the unattractive realities of their unsteady adulthood in rebellious tempos, battling it with calls for jubilant bodily motion and youthfully existential shout-alongs. That first record sublimated their discontent into its own defiant salve: dissatisfaction expressed satisfyingly. The second time around, on Surfing Strange, that jubilation is almost gone, though the foursome's restlessness still persists.
For those requiring a brief history lesson to set the scene for this review, once upon a time there was a band called P.S. Eliot, started by the Crutchfield sisters, Katie and Allison, and that band produced some great pop/rock-tinged indie tunes in the time they were together. Once they disbanded, Katie went on to form Waxahatchee whilst Allison ended up as one quarter of the personnel responsible for Swearin' â?? for the record, both bands also include Keith Spencer on bass.
Swearin's debut flew under the radar upon its release last year, but found many champions via word-of-mouth in the ensuing months. Their quick follow-up, Surfing Strange, adheres to the lo-fi, early '90s pop-punk fuzz of that release, but ditches some of the Superchunk worship that both propelled and hampered it. Slower tempos and a newfound willingness to experiment within the box they've created for themselves are pervasive and, for the most part, effective.
If you're looking for a guided tour of the eternal-turning-23 blues, you can't do better than the second Swearin' album. These indie kids spend the LP driving on the turnpike, listening to the crunch of the black ice, wondering when they're going to give up running from whatever they're running from. Allison Crutchfield and Kyle Gilbride trade girl-boy vocals, as the band goes for a pop-punk crunch that recalls Superchunk or Bleach-era Nirvana.
Swearin’s self-titled album was one of my very favourite debut records of 2012: DIY pop-punk by way of 90s indie rock, and full of indelible melodies. On the face of it, it was extremely lo-fi, (my original download was full of static from the audio clipping), and they rarely wrote songs much more complex than a few powerchords – but the record was nonetheless so vivid that it will remind me of that year for a long time to come. Swearin' wrote emotionally complex songs and sung them kind of like kids having tantrums.
On their self-titled debut, Swearin’ burst right out of the gates and refused to slow down, if more metaphorically than literally. Swearin’ was high-energy blitz laced with insightful, tune-oriented songwriting, and when it came out I spent hours with it in my headphones, the landscapes of Czech Republic, Austria, and Italy flying by. It was a very nativist thing to do; here I was in a foreign place, and yet I was so devoted to that one genre I’ve only heard done right in America: pop-punk.
As one half of Brooklyn punk band P.S. Eliot, Allison Crutchfield and her sister Katie mastered the kind of raw, lo-fi songcraft that manages tenderness while still creeping into the quiet side of the punk spectrum. With the four-piece Swearin’, Allison and her co-vocalist Kyle Gilbride funnel that nerve into a sound that’s spikier and more buoyant, punk in its gruffness and pop in its taste for the hook.
Katie and Allison Crutchfield are identical twins. It’s something that’s clear not only in the obvious terms of appearance, but also in their singing voices, which are uncannily similar. Musically, though, the resemblances largely begin and end there; Surfing Strange, the second full-length from Allison’s band Swearin’, is about as far as it gets from the fragility and subtlety that often underscores Katie’s work under the Waxahatchee moniker.
Surfing Strange, the new record by Philadelphia band Swearin’, would probably sound best from behind the sound board at any college radio station in America. I’m pretty sure that despite the demise of actual radio, college radio still exists, as do late night shows spent ordering pizza, writing on the walls of the station, and ignoring drunken call-ins. This is Swearin’s territory, not only because many of the band’s influences (Superchunk, the Breeders) hail from the late-‘80s-early-‘90s heyday of college radio, but also because their music deftly captures that very specific period of life.
Around six tracks into Swearin’s sophomore LP, you might forget which band you’re listening to. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Brooklyn four-piece manages to move through so many styles in their relatively brief 11-track album that any of the songs could be a one-off single from some unknown bar band, soon to be the next buzzy thing. With three of the four members (Allison Crutchfield, Kyle Gilbride and Keith Spencer) trading vocal responsibility throughout, what’s coming next is any casual listener’s guess.