Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN - 15/4
The Long Dark Blue
Written by: MIN on 25/01/2017 16:42:11
If you like your punk rock with a touch of grunge and indie rock, you’re in luck! Swain from the Netherlands’ new album “The Long Dark Blue” deliciously mixes punk with the longing and hazy elements that were thickly painted across the ‘90s, whether we’re talking Seattle’s grunge scene or the shoegaze of Great Britain. Throw in a catchy chorus and some harmonic backing vocals every now and then, and you end up with Swain’s latest opus.
When listening to Swain, it’s honestly a little hard not to compare them to such bands as Basement and Drug Church. Hell, when vocalist Noam Cohen yells “Quit my life, quit my job, quit my girlfriend // Now I’m staring at the back of an old trend” on “Half Asleep / Half Awake”, you’ll almost mistake Patrick Kindlon to have taken over. The mid-tempo drum and bass-driven track alternates between Cohen’s discontent with his surroundings and the jaggy guitar in the song’s chorus, making the track a pretty interesting listen — although it honestly never excels quite in the way that some of the aforementioned bands’ material does.
Where Swain manages to stand out, however, is on tracks like “Never Clean My Room”. It’s not innovative, but it’s different and risky when compared to so many other punk bands. The song’s drum-pattern and chords are mesmerizing and intriguing, Cohen’s vocals are soft and inviting, and the song is long enough to have a proper build-up. During the chorus, the guitar creates a thick wall of sound through distortion and repetition, almost replicating what we know from shoegaze and post-rock. After three fast-paced punk songs, it’s a nice break that lets you immerse yourself in the band’s music.
Indeed, Swain works best when they mix these different genres. “Strange Way Down” starts off with a swirling guitar and heavy bass work that invites the listener to go further down the spiral with the band. The reverberating guitar freaks out progressively more towards the end as the vocals get harsher, suddenly and dramatically fading out before the background harmonies softly kick in and end the song. The album’s final track, “Rid Myself of You” follows much in the same vein, but with even more oblique, introverted lyrics and an excellent keyboard-driven break to finish off the record, proving that when Swain are at their weirdest, they’re also at their best.
“The Long Dark Blue” is a great record that shows many different facets of the band, whether it’s spiteful punk or swirling indie rock. The band’s strongest force lies in mixing the two, and although I admire punk as much as any of my fellow writers here at Rockfreaks, I must admit that I find the hazy, dreamy soundscapes that the band occasionally creates far more interesting than the two-minute thrill-rides. Throughout the record, Swain are good at delivering some excellent songs, while others honestly are a bit forgettable (“Hoping For It” and “Secrets Inside” to name a few). However, the bar is set high, and although the band’s best songs never invoke awe like some of their peers do, Swain’s highs and lows are pretty well-adjusted, making for an enjoyable, fun and thoughtful listen overall.
Download: Punk-Rock Messed You Up, Kid!; Faze Me; Strange Way Down; Rid Myself of You
For the fans of: Drug Church, Basement, Paint It Black
Release date 09.09.2016
End Hits Records