Release Date: Aug 5, 2013
Record label: RCA
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
It could easily be said that the debut album from British four-piece Swim Deep is a retro-centric slab of melodic dream pop that recalls the best of the genre. Indeed, the blissed-out ghosts of such late-'80s/early-‘90s bands as House of Love, Ride, and even the Stone Roses hover over most of Swim Deep's 2013 full-length Where in the Heaven Are We. Centered around lead singer/guitarist Austin Williams, the four-piece, who formed in Birmingham in 2011, have crafted a handful of utterly infectious indie pop cuts here.
A dreamy haze of shameless indie-pop is the latest LP to come out of ‘B-Town’; a not-so-bustling scene that has been lazily plotted on the UK music map somewhere near the centre of Birmingham over the last 12 months. The lackadaisical delivery of everything that has come out of B-Town so far implies that Where The Heaven Are We was always likely to be a little bit lazy, hallmarked with a gentle motif, and be unequivocally unashamed of how poppy it is. It’s safe to say that that’s exactly what the finished article is, but that’s certainly not to say it’s not a very solid debut effort.
One of the more curious phenomena of recent years has been the rebranding of cities (usually by people completely unconnected with that city). Last year, for example, visitors to Manchester were greeted by signs proclaiming “I love MCR”, leading to the puzzling conclusion that the north west was now home to a large amount of My Chemical Romance fans. And now, it’s Birmingham’s time – or, as some journalists have dubbed it, B-Town.
In 10 years' time, this Swim Deep will not be fielding interview questions about a Where The Heaven Are We anniversary tour. Their debut album doesn’t fit into that Great British niche where so many guitar bands reside; eternally reliving the songs of their youth to an aging crowd of thousands. They will be free to outgrow the B-Town scene they emerged from with Peace and go on to write the album they’re capable of.
Birmingham's mini-baggy revival continues, with Swim Deep following Peace into the album racks. And, like Peace's abum, Where the Heaven Are We? is a pleasant wander through the byways of early-90s indie styles that doesn't ever really assert itself terribly strongly. Singer Austin Williams has the wispy, fey voice of the young Bobby Gillespie, and, like Ian Brown, favours the profound-sounding-but-not-actually-that-meaningful lyrical declaration ("Don't just dream in your sleep, it's just lazy," he informs us in Honey, then informs us again and again, the better that we might admire his cleverness), the problem being that a voice this washed-out makes everything sound lackadaisical, rather than filled with conquer-the-world ambition.
If B-Town didn’t exist, you wouldn’t bet money on any of the bands involved being arsed to invent it. We’d say nonchalance courses through the scene’s veins like quicksilver, but it’s really more like a slow, viscous swirl. The dreamy, detached sneer of the vocals, the lolloping XXL basslines, all that unwashed hair… Some scenes come roaring out of the traps; B-Town seemed to roll out of bed, insular and uncontrived, smirking at its own in-jokes, smelling faintly of K cider and intent on nothing loftier than the pursuit of a laugh.
With their boyband good looks and a line in vaguely baggy, blissed-out, summery indie, it's easy to see why big things have been predicted for young Birmingham four-piece Swim Deep. And certainly their debut opens impressively, with Francisco's appealingly carefree vibe followed by last year's nicely judged single King City, wherein they added a seductive pop chorus to the xx's sense of space. Sadly, that's as good as it gets; too much of the rest of their material sounds like utterly unremarkable filler, most notably Soul Trippin', a song so terminally middling it makes Scouting for Girls sound like swashbuckling visionaries.
Across the land’s hallowed institutions of higher education, young people are currently donning silly hats and robes en masse. It’s graduation time. Encaenia and the subsequent wild partying ceremoniously mark the moment when you leave your student bubble, and hopefully metamorphose into an independent, mature, and beautiful flower of a person too.
As Birmingham begins the paperwork for usurping nearby Manchester as the northern sonic hub, (okay, so it’s not strictly northern, but they do pronounce ‘grass’ funny and it’s above London, so close enough) a steady stream of acts start to flow out, including indie-rockers peace. After a storming SXSW set earlier this year, Swim Deep became the poster boys of this musical influx, permeating a wider consciousness with a sound being described as ‘beach grunge’ and rip-roaring singles like ‘Honey’ and ‘She Changes The Weather’. Now that Where The Heaven Are We, their full-length debut, is about to hit the e-shelves, there’s no doubt we’ll be hearing a lot more of the youthful foursome.