Fat Wreck Chords
I first listened to this album in my truck with the windows down, in thick, fast-moving traffic and I thought, “can this be the Swingin’ Utters?” Some aspects of the songs were definitely Swingin’ Utters: Johnny Peebuck’s gravel n’ whiskey vocals, the catchy rhythm-guitar melodies, and the overall blending of the Pogues and Cock Sparrer, but something seemed very different. When the album rolled around to the song “Second Skin,” which opens with a riff that sounds like a segue in a seventies sitcom, I really started scratching my head. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the album. I just didn’t understand it at first.
Listening to this album inside my house, the sound flowing through better speakers and not drowned out by the engines of my truck and all the surrounding vehicles, I started to understand. Early Swingin’ Utters is the best of American street punk, and their early singles and first two albums are great, but with their last studio album, the Swingin’ Utters started taking more chances, filling in songs with accordions, tin whistles, and mandolins. It worked. They stuck to their street punk roots and went into a new and interesting direction. With this new, self-titled album, the Swingin’ Utters are no longer experimenting. They’re heading off in that new direction. The anger is still there, but it’s tempered by a good bit of self-reflection. The songs still rock, but rather than creating chaos through speed and noise, they create it by with organs, accordions, pedal steel, mandolins, cellos, and viola. And, yes, it’s still a punk rock album. It’s amazing. It’s an album that you can’t ignore and can’t leave on as background music. It’s an album that demands you sit in front of your speakers and listen to every word, note, and chord. Most impressively, it’s an album that gets better every time you listen to it.
Fat Wreck Chords, P.O. Box 193690, San Francisco, CA 94119-3690; http://www.fatwreck.com