Review Summary: Virginia does it again.
The sound that Virginia's Brainworms have become notorious for is definitely different. Early material was notable for short, explosive post-hardcore tracks that were marked by their extremely melodic guitars. 'Swear To Me' marks a distinct change for the band though, as the material here seems to be diving into much more eclectic territories. Brainworms have always embraced the style of hardcore that was made popular by groups like Split Lip and Grade. All of the group's discography bleeds of a melodic hardcore influence, but the fact is they hardly ever sound that clean or restrained. Whether it is punk, hardcore, or even indie rock, Brainworms are able to spew a dissonant yet catchy mix of numerous genres.
'Swear To Me' improves on Brainworms' former material by taking a more progressive approach. Blues style solos, group vocals, and various studio techniques are taken to make the sound more layered and diverse. For reference, think Bear vs. Shark's evolution from debut to sophomore release. The guitar attack of the group has been stepped up a notch and the addition of Josh Small layers the sound nicely. The odd fit in Brainworms has always been lead vocalist Greg Butler who physically resembles Tim Harrington of Les Savy Fav fame. Butler's voice has a distinct distorted sound to it whether it is synthetic or natural. This really helps his voice contrast with very high frequency guitar and bass parts that the group likes to employ. Butler's lyrics also show themselves to be just as sophisticated as the song structures. His penchant for illustrating hardcore concepts in a personal way echoes other Virginia groups like Haram or Malady. His lyrics on 'Swear To Me' seem to be focusing on the various realities that accompany the term home, whether it is a person or place. Butler seems to be aching to find and define his own "home" and these thoughts seem to be a basis in the lyrical side of 'Swear To Me'. Of course the material strays into other realms whether it be the political 'Whatever, That's How You Get Famous' or the two instrumental tracks 'Vulgar Display of Flowers' and 'The Pinnacle of Story Telling.'
'Swear To Me' is a great record both because it is extremely enjoyable to listen to, while at the same time it helps carve out its own niche in post-hardcore. Fans of Bear vs. Shark, Hot Water Music, or a Dischord association would be wise to check out 'Swear To Me' - it really is a great and new sounding example of that sound.