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Swearin’ - Swearin’

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Artist: Swearin’

Album: Swearin’

Label: Salinas

Review date: Aug. 2, 2012

I want to try and explain the effect Swearin’ has on me because the album swells with the things I crave — literally, crave — from music. If a song is in my head and it circles around and around, there’s this need in me to hear it, to fulfill the promise the specter of the song has made. I fidget, and I feel uncomfortable — it really is, very weirdly, a feeling of desire in a very pure, concentrated form.

Very common metaphors used to discuss music are “addictive” and “infectious.” We talk like this because we’re trying to figure out how these structured sounds get inside us and change us from within. Drug and disease metaphors don’t really hit the mark, however. It’s more sexual, and I don’t mean that literally, in that it’s erotic or in the way that people say rock ‘n’ roll is sexy (Elvis’s hips, et al.), but that desire is desire. Desiring a person is like desiring a song. Both make me antsy. Just in different ways.

So, there aren’t a lot of bands that really have this effect on me, and when I find one, it’s exciting. Brooklyn’s Swearin’ — Kyle Gilbride, Keith Spencer, Allison Crutchfield and Jeff Bolt — is a great band, and the album is very good. It’s one of those albums where you hear it, and you think of all the bands that are writing similar songs, the scads of indie rock/pop groups out there, working within their respective structures, churning out uninspired, lazy, half-fun songs as deep as TMZ and as emotionally trenchant as some sci-fi shipper fic. You hear Swearin’ and turn to the imagined throng of cut-rate songsmiths and ask, “Why can’t you do that?” It’s the infuriating thing about pop music — for something so simple, it really is a very fragile kind of music.

Look, the truth is, my critical aptitude has its area of influence. I like Phill Niblock, but I can’t tell you why he’s good/inspired/interesting and someone like him isn’t. While the critical focus is different when glancing over there, I wonder if in free jazz and noise and modern composition, without there being recognizable or at least agreed-upon structural rules, if it’s tougher to tell what’s burning trash and what isn’t. Pop seems easier an easier assessment. Most of it is shitty because of that fragility. Do something slightly “wrong” — be slightly less inspired than your idols, be slightly less vulnerable than those that can truly be open, be slightly less poetic than the best cryptic lyricists — and you careen off quickly into mediocrity. We’re all then just combing through the mountainous debris looking for that speck of greatness.

The great hope of all art — music, especially because of its ubiquity — is that it’s a transformational event. Most of that desire to be transformed is compromised and corrupted by the bullshit of the everyday, from mediocre dreck championed by rich shitheads looking to clone their stacks of cash to mediocre dreck championed by hip shitheads looking to clone their stacks of self-importance. Regardless, that desire still exists in us all, even if it’s in some starved and mostly-emaciated way. Always be on the lookout for this stuff. Swearin’ definitely has the potential to produce transformational songs; while Swearin’ isn’t there yet, it’s great and well worth your time.

By Andrew Beckerman

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