Review Summary: The first official full length from this Michigan four-piece showcases a tremendous amount of talent and songwriting ability while crafting some of the best melodic punk of the past five years.
Out of the fairly substantial variety of music that I listen to, melodic punk has always been sort of a foundation of sorts. It all started a long time ago when I was given a copy of NOFX’s magnum opus So Long and Thanks For All the Shoes
for Easter, along with AFI’s Sing the Sorrow
. I don’t exactly remember how I even formulated an interest in NOFX in the first place, to be perfectly honest. Something tells me that my inaugural journey to the Vans Warped Tour in 2002 had something to do with it, especially after witnessing their stellar performance among the crowd of radio-friendly pop-punk bands I had come to see.
However though, it could be states the So Long…
has become a bit of a starting point from where I began to develop my own music taste, which still remains here today. It was my first introduction to melodic punk, a genre that I found more of an appeal in than contemporary pop-punk for its harder edge, and more confrontational subject matter. To this day, I still love the genre. However much my tastes have expanded past that, reaching into the far corners of hip-hop, metal, emo, indie, and dozens of others, punk has always been at the foreground of it all. That’s why I can enjoy a band like the Swellers, who have made the best straight melodic punk album I have heard in quite some time in My Everest
, the Fenton, Michigan group’s first proper full-length.
The most defining quality of My Everest
is the incredible songwriting that pervades the album. Melodic punk, as a whole, can be made or broken by the songwriting skills exhibited by the band, and the Swellers clearly show that they are near the top of their game when it comes to musical and lyrical construction. The whole band is well versed in avoiding the dreaded “Pennywise” syndrome (every song sounds the same musically, all of the lyrics are preachy and self-righteous, etc) by throwing in large amounts of variety all over the record. Whether it is the Dragon Force-esque slide guitar solo of “Skoots”, the sludgy breakdown that opens “Surrounded” or the two-minute acoustic dirge of “Keep Looking Where Your Eyes Are Looking Now”, there is variety in droves all over My Everest
, which makes it as easily digestible as it is. The band even shows that they are fully capable of making an almost six minute song, the closing opus of “The Way Back Home”, earn a passing grade, something bands with experience 10 years their senior cannot do.
The variety of the musical construction, however, is not the only attraction in the Swellers sizeable bag of tricks. Lyrically, the Diener brothers (the band’s principle songwriters) prove to be better songwriters than many of their peers in the genre, tackling topics of friendship and interpersonal relationships, more specifically losing friends and coping with that loss (“Surrounded”), to the more upbeat and hopeful embrace of friendships that last the test of distance (“The Way Back Home”), and even the feeling of jadedness associated with realizing the worst qualities of the human race (“Bottles”). The lyrical content ranges from the very pessimistic and nearly misanthropic to the hopeful optimism, and almost always addresses the topic of interpersonal relationships in ways that have been neglected previously from other groups.
Outstanding musicianship is prevalent all over My Everest
as well. “The Flood” in particular is a standout musically, with its mellow and distant-sounding acoustic introduction before moving into one of the fastest punk songs I’ve heard recently. It relies on much more than just constantly hammering power chords to establish the breakneck rhythm that dominates the track, instead utilizing plenty of open chord voicings for a more open and unique sound which compliments the faster rhythm well and gives the song another subtle bit of variety that would otherwise not be present, before ripping into a solo that rocks like A Wilhelm Scream with more emotion. “This is My Everest”, however, changes things up drastically, relying on a more rhythmically driven dynamic which showcases Jon Diener’s superb drumming skills and ability to change tempos at the drop of a hat.
However, for as all around kickass as My Everest
is, it is not a perfect record by any stretch of the imagination. Some songs scattered throughout the album are just not nearly as strong as others. “Vehicle City” starts the album off on a fairly mundane note, sounding more disjointed than complex at times and suffering from a bit of incongruous construction with its more rock-driven riff overtop the million-mile-an-hour guitars and drums. And then, there is always the fact that this is melodic punk rock, and nothing really far beyond that. The band sticks to what they know very well, however, it can become tiring after repeated listens unless the only band you listen to is Bad Religion or No Use For a Name, in which case you will listen to this over and over again without ever getting even slightly tired of it.
However, My Everest
still has an innumerable amount of redeeming factors. The lead vocals are fairly strong and interesting throughout, while the three-part harmonies are a fantastic (albeit expected) addition to the mix. There are catchy hooks galore layered among the technically sound musicianship, and all while accented by the stellar and clean production courtesy of Mark Michalik. My Everest
is the perfect addition to any punk fans collection, and could be a future gateway album for those who have yet to venture into the world of melodic punk.
Recommended Tracks: This is My Everest, Skoots, Bottles, The Flood
This is as close to a 4.5 as a 4 could possibly get in my book.