Review Summary: As if it were possible, a substantial improvement from 2007's My Everest. The Swellers prove to have written some of the most honest punk-influenced pop songs of the new millennium.
It seems it was only yesterday I was adding this band to my growing list of friends on my then-band's MySpace profile. This "yesterday" I refer to is in fact the early months of 2006; a time when this Flint, Michigan, quartet just released their debut EP on Search And Rescue Records, entitled The Beginning Of The End Again
. Not one for wasting my time listening to every band that crossed my path in my MySpace friend request bin, I took a shot in the damn dark and listened to a few tracks they had up. 2 songs, and I was immediately hooked. A tune called "The Inside" started finding its way on my PC speakers every night. I never thought that a virtually no-name band could impress me this much at first listen. No one I knew had heard of them yet. They were my own; the best-kept secret.
Today, they prove to have written some of the most honest punk-influenced pop songs of the new millennium, in a style very reminiscent to 90's skate punk legends, Lagwagon, Jawbreaker, and Millencolin. Think a more sober NoFX. By the time their sophomore full-length, Ups And Downsizing
, was released in September 2009, the fellows from Flint had the tremendous honor of being signed to Fueled By Ramen. Now, my best-kept secrets were rubbing elbows with the scene's biggest names, like labelmates Cobra Starship and The Academy Is..., as well as being the opening act for pop/punk juggernauts Paramore on their "brand new eyes" tour, sporting mad props from scene princess, Hayley Williams.
With props certainly deserved, The Swellers have always stayed true to their punk roots. Listening to "Ups", you're immediately hooked by persistently-driving drumming, brilliant guitar work, and soaring vocal harmonies from lead-singer/rhythm-guitarist Nick Diener, surely one of the more underrated punk songwriters of the decade. The opening track, 2009
, is pounding and beautiful. A song about experiences on New Years 08-09, it sets a great precedent for the rest of the album. Incredibly catchy songs like this are similar to tracks like Welcome Back Riders
, Fire Away
, and Ups And Downsizing
While there aren't any face-melting Dragonforce-esque guitar solos (RE: "The Flood", My Everest
) on this record, there are still blisteringly fast songs present that hold true to their first batch of songs from their first EP. Dirt
and The Iron
are perfect sequels to past Swellers gems like Tunnel Vision, By A Thread, and Vehicle City. To contrast the lightning-quick barn-burners, you'll find beautiful ballads that will solidify The Swellers as pop/punk masterminds. The first of which found is a track called Feet First
. Hooks ahoy, my friends. The lyrics seem to grow organically out of Nick's mouth, as he sings:
"Watching the waves crashing beneath me/Blue and silver, chaotic and surreal/And I can't describe the view from up here/Because maybe I won't be able to tell you what I see/Don't waste your tears on me/Don't stop now, just carry on, carry on, carry on"
Heart-stopping lyrics from an often-overlooked band. The other ballad is called Stars
, a long lullaby with even more meaningful lyrics to take in.
Please don't hesitate to set aside 39 minutes and take a listen to Ups And Downsizing
front to back. It's well worth a lot of listens.
Welcome Back Riders
4.5/5. As if it were possible, a substantial improvement from 2007's My Everest