Review Summary: Switches Lay Down the Law, but what the hell are we here for?
As much as critics generally love an original band, the thing they love even more is a great revivalist act. So why have they been universally touching themselves to a London indie pop act called Switches? The more I listen to Switches' debut record entitled Lay Down the Law
, the more puzzled I become. See, Lay Down the Law
contains neither an ounce of originality nor any great revivalist sound. It’s simply an indie-pop record filled with some halfway decent tracks and some awkwardly terrible ones as well. The same act was pulled last year by The Fratellis, and before that The Arctic Monkeys, before that The Strokes, etc. But the difference between these groups and Switches is simple: Whereas the aforementioned acts took the world by storm with a killer single and some real genuineness, there’s no genuineness in Switches. Lay Down the Law
is cocky, overblown, and lacks the substance to back up Matt Bishop’s irritatingly boastful and often senseless lyrics. Take lead single “Drama Queen” for example. As much as it tries to be this year’s “Flathead”, “Drama Queen’s” arrogance is just a little too tangible, its misogyny just a little too honest for comfort. ”If you're rating my life give it ten,”
sings Bishop in the first verse of the track, but with no prior evidence to support his egotistical self-descriptions (and none to come for the rest of Lay Down the Law
), Switches come off like arrogant posers rather than the swaggering badasses they clearly intend to be.
Of course, there might have been some merit to Switches' claims if they weren’t so unashamedly derivative. There’s nothing new for the ears here, just straight radio rock, the same formulaic, indie-twisted concoction that’s been storming alternative stations for the past half decade. Jangly guitars? Check. Gang-style backup vocals? Check. Catchy choruses? Sure, why not. On a surface level, Switches have done everything right, but they miss nearly all the intricacies their more memorable peers incorporate that make them so gosh darn lovable. Drumbeats, basslines, and lyrical wit are all damned on Lay Down the Law
in favor of flowery production heavy on hooks (which for the most part aren’t as hooking as they need to be) and light on actual talent. Bishop’s lyrics fail hardest, as intrigue and prose are discarded in favor of syllables that fit and words that don't stick. The album’s title track, while initially catchy and kinda fun, soon becomes disappointingly banal when analyzing the lyrics. The song’s words consist of: “Well she sure is cooking/ cooking for me/ but she caught me looking. And her mouth is ready/ ready for me/ but she caught me looking. We lay down the law! So what the hell are you here for?
” repeated as necessary. At exactly what
our protagonist was looking at is never explained, nor the connection between the Switches laying down the law and the singer’s girlfriend’s culinary skill. Sad thing is, “Lay Down the Law” is probably the album’s best track, and due to the Switches style-over-substance approach to music, the rest of Lay Down the Law
, while rarely terrible, is simply forgettable.
It doesn’t come as a surprise either. With the singles being as disappointing as they are, not much hope lies in the rest of the album. Not that Switches offer up any reason for hope. Songs like “Every Second Counts” and “The Need to be Needed” are just as generic and boring as their titles, and “Message From Yuz” (pronounced “Youz”. OGodz) hits a new low in failed relatability attempts. But the absolute bottom comes with "Stepkids in Love." Hell, God bless the soul who looks at the back cover of Lay Down the Law
, sees the track “Stepkids in Love”, and does not gear up for three and a half minutes of awkward hilarity. One would think/pray that a song called “Stepkids in Love” couldn't really be about incest, but Switches deliver in full, as Bishop makes three minutes feel like an eternity as he rambles on in true Cruel Intentions
fashion about his own personal Sarah Michelle Gellar that he’d like to take behind the shed. There’s no irony or tongue-in-cheek fashion evident here: Bishop sounds perfectly genuine
in his desire, singing such winners as “Your room faced mine and you would leave on your light/ I’d turn it off and we’d go bump in the night…
“Stepkids in Love” proves the most illegitimately/ uncomfortably entertaining moment on Lay Down the Law
, inciting nervous smiles universally, but that smile is one of the few the Switches offer up on their record. Maybe with a few more fills, or a couple more licks, or a bunch more words that made the slightest sense, Lay Down the Law
might have been more enjoyable and blown up like a record from one of Switches' British peers. After all, it’s clear that Switches want to be that type of a big act. Unfortunately, they’ve crafted a record that feels more like imitation than originality, and unless they find some distinguishing factor to their style, they’re bound to stay buried below their contemporaries, reminding us of what makes those bands so special in the first place.