Everybody Wants to Know
Lo-fi is high cool; ask any slacker-rock dude. But whilst the Sebadohs and Slints of this world may claim the crown of Americaís finest four-track maestros, Swell remain largely ignored and even insignificant to many, sitting in the porch, gulping bourbon and not giving a ratís ass.
But musically, this couldnít be further from the truth. In fact for some, it was Swell who started lo-fi as we know it Ė back in 1991 with their eponymous debut, built around the creative nucleus of singer/guitarist David Freel and bassist Monte Vallier, with a revolving door policy on guitarists and drummers. Four chord wonders, a collision of acoustic and electric (yet deceptively simple) guitar work and positively devilish drumming became the Swell staple, culminating in 1998ís Too Many Days Without Thinking, revered as one of the greatest albums of its genre.
However, Vallier quit the group late last year to pursue his own projects, leaving Freel alone to bring Swell into the 21st Century. And luckily enough, he does just that. From the lowdown moody chorus of first single Feed and the intermittent bursts of fuzz guitar which permeate opener This Story right through to East n Westís irresistible riffage and the searing piano intro of ..A Velvet Sun, Swell once again deliver the goods.
This is a new Swell; more refined, more experimental, less paranoid. Swell have again secured their place in that handful of criminally under-rated and overlooked bands which continue to shape and pre-empt the music we listen to without the praise they deserve.
Maybe someday soon everybody will want to know about Swell.
Itís time we all did.
9/10 Karl Cremin