With a lineup that includes former Wilco drummer Ken Coomer, The Mavericks’ Jerry Dale McFadden and Robert Reynolds, Todd Rundgren sideman Doug Powell, and Cheap Trick bassist Tom Petersson, Swag are a supergroup out to win hearts with unabashed pop songs.
“Doodle-ly doo doo, dwee diddle doo doo,” Reynolds sings on the Hollies-like opener, “Lone.” It may be the most perfect two-minute burst of ringing 12-string guitar you hear all year. More importantly, it’s a lot of fun. Powell takes over lead vocals on “I’ll Get By,” which sounds somewhat like Petersson’s day job band and which features Nashville pop veteran Bill Lloyd on guitar. Another Nashville pop genius, Brad Jones, produced the record and played bass when Petersson was busy with Rick, Robin, and Bun E.
On “Please Don’t Tell,” Swag marries a melody swiped from The Zombies to a Dave Davies freak-out guitar solo to create ’60s pop nirvana. “Near Perfect Smile” is a sweet acoustic ballad that wouldn’t sound out of place in the Elliott Smith catalog. “Different Girl” is a Beach Boys-like charmer, and “When She Awoke” is majestic pop that may remind you of other deft assimilators like Jellyfish.
While it’s fun to play spot the influences, though, Catch-All never sounds like a collection of genre exercises. It’s a thoroughly modern collection that stands up pretty well on its own, thanks to the combined talent and energies of the individual members.
I used to believe you could judge the quality of an album by the number of songs with girls’ names in the title, and Catch-All has several (“Louise,” “Trixie”). And you’ve got to love a band that mentions themselves in one of their songs. On the rocker “Ride,” McFadden sings, “Have you ever seen Swag play live?/Did you dig the show?/I’ve got tickets for tomorrow night/Let’s go.” I didn’t need the subliminal advertising to get me there.