(Photo by Jesse Riggins, taken from the Swearin’ Facebook page)
I don’t even remember how or when I heard about this band, but after a couple listens of their self titled album I was completely hooked. It’s got a sense of rawness and honesty that I think so much indie rock is missing these days. It’s moody, sarcastic, and cynical punk music that manages to stay optimistic and thoughtful all the way through.
Swearin’ starts off on a frenzied sounding melody with an ascending pitch before it dives into Allison Crutchfield’s anthemic vocals in the song, so simply named “1”. And then like half a minute later it cuts off into the next song with equal intensity. Kyle Gilbride’s give-no-shits, strained vocals fit the mood perfectly in Here to Hear. He echoes, to me, that frustration of moving back to your hometown and the lethargic monotony of trying to figure out your future, “I keep thinking, ‘Is this as good as it gets?'” Then he screeches into a poppy, bouncy solo to outro the song. We flip back to Crutchfield’s vocals and chug our way through Kenosha next. I love this song so damn much. The chorus is so simple and devastating: “I hope you like Kenosha so much you stay there.”
The whole album punches and winds through those 20-something struggles, disappointments, and insecurities. “Maybe I’m not the right kind,
I’m not in my right mind,” says Crutchfield, in the chaotic and volatile song, “Shrinking Violet”.
It finds a way to voice the the feeling of trying to fit in/stand out with just the right amount of self deprecation. “Spend the night complaining, running on no sleep. How can you hang out with me?” shouts Gilbride in the beginning of the song “Crashing”, which sounds like it’s about couch hopping wherever and whenever your friends will let you.
This album makes me feel better about being kind of lost and aimless sometimes. Like it’s fine, because you’re going to screw up and make bad decisions, but it’ll probably still be fun if you don’t take all the heartache so seriously.
When you strip it down, this album is actually chock-full of sad songs, if you read through the lyrics. “I collect the blurry past into my empty head,” says Gilbride and Crutchfield, “Its not like anything was better then.” Their vocals crackle out in harmony at 2:09 in the song “Empty Head” to make one of my favourite quiet moments on the album.
But it’s the overall contrast of fast, and relatively upbeat music with those lyrics that sway from emo to poetically blunt that work so well together for me. “The bluer the water, the closer to hell. Sandy rock-bottom, seedy motel,” says Crutchfield in the song “Hundreds & Thousands”. I can only assume they’re talking about the hundreds and thousands of kinda shitty bars and venues they’ve played touring across the states.
“Movie Star” sounds like it chronicles the end of a relationship and the beginning of another in this fuzzed out final track. This song, just like the first track, sort of book-ends the album – but with a descending melody this time. The guitars and drums crash harder and harder, and more haphazardly under Crutchfield shouting, “You and me don’t earn much pay, but you and me got enough to get away,” until the song breaks apart and fuzzy feedback lingers uncomfortably in your headphones.
Swearin’ broke up in 2015 around the time that Crutchfield and Gilbride broke up in the same year–according to their Wikipedia page. The shitty thing about bands built around a couple is that relationships don’t always last forever, and when they end, so does the music. I don’t know if that’s necessarily what happened here, but maybe it’s better not to know. I’m still not over it though. I guess people don’t normally wite reviews for albums five years after they’ve already been released, but I don’t care. I’ll keep listening to this album until the day I feel like I’m done making mistakes–which, not coincidentally, might be never.