Swearin' - Fall Into the Sun

by Tim Sentz Rating:7 Release Date:2018-10-05
Swearin' - Fall Into the Sun
Swearin' - Fall Into the Sun

Back in 2012, Swearin’ were just an old-fashioned punk rock band, helmed by Allison Crutchfield – the twin sister of Katie Crutchfield a.k.a. Waxahatchee. The sisters have similar vocals, so it may be kind of difficult to decipher who’s who across their vast discography. Combined the sisters have crafted excellent indie rock melodies in their own solo endeavors, as well as collaboratively on projects like P.S. Eliot and The Ackleys. Katie has taken her Waxahatchee project from its humble lo-fi chamber folk beginnings to a full-band rock excursion. Allison on the other hand seems to have struggled to find her niche with Swearin’.

Their first two records are modest punk rock albums. They're brisk, thoughtful, and most importantly – fun. After Surfin Strange, the expectation was that Swearin’ would go on to bigger things. In 2015 it was announced that Swearin’ had disbanded, and right after that, it seems the core of the group – Crutchfield and co-vocalist Kyle Gilbride – had ended their relationship. Three years later, Swearin’ are back, despite this division, but the results vary, and instead of broadening their horizons, they just go through the motions.

A lot of the issues fall on Gilbride, as he attempts to wedge Swearin’ into this emo revival that’s swept the indie circuit – bands like the Hotelier have made a grand impact on the indie music scene by making less whiny emo, and more cultured approaches to the genre. But Gilbride is riding the line, trying to have the best of both worlds on Fall Into the Sun. Crutchfield is the stronger lyricist (and vocalist) for Swearin’, and it’s those instances that stand out on Fall Into the Sun. “Big Change” welcomes us back with a pretty standard Swearin’ aesthetic – crunchy guitars, inviting drum lines, and Crutchfield swooning us like she always does.

Gilbride isn’t a terrible musician, it’s just that for whatever reason the band opted to pair his emo vocals with the same background as Crutchfield’s – but her vocals are paired better with the straight-up Breeders-like indie rock like on "Margaret." When Gilbride handles lead vocals, like on “Dogpile,” it’s a jarring shift because the music stays almost identical to what it was on “Big Change.” This is no disrespect to Gilbride, his presence on Surfing Strange was excellent, and more importantly, his vocals matched the song. With Fall Into the Sun it seems more of a Gilbride record than Crutchfield as he takes lead on half of the record, an increase from Surfing Strange where he had maybe a quarter; but the songs are tailored to Crutchfield’s vocals on every track which is opposite of what they did on Surfing Strange - Gilbride was reserved for the more frenzied and experimental aspects of Swearin'. One can deduce whatever they want from this dramatic shift, and it’s probably in an effort to make a more balanced record for the two vocalists, which is admirable, but they lose a tad bit of the resonating highs that their previous work entailed. “Dogpile” is a solid track, but it doesn’t carry the same oomph one would hope from Swearin’, and it sounds just like “Stabilize,” another track fronted by Gilbride, and is very reminiscent to “Watered Down” from Surfing Strange which is far superior.

This isn't a dog on Gilbride review though - more of a warning to those expecting a finale to the trilogy of Swearin' records. As a cohesive unit, Swearin' still write giddy and enjoyable indie punk. The aforementioned "Stabilize" is a grand centerpiece, even if it's still pushing the needle further from what made everyone adore the band in the first place. Remaining stagnant would be boring, so Swearin' are either trying to take their band in a new direction, or they're phoning it in on Fall Into the Sun. So many hooks seem repeated and reminiscent of Allison Crutchfield's 2017 solo album Tourist In This Town.

It was actually a smart call by the band to have the lead-up singles – “Grow Into a Ghost” and “Untitled (LA)” – both be Crutchfield helms as Gilbride’s vocals are a bit of a turnoff on Fall Into the Sun. Both singles are “classic” Swearin’, and it gives the impression that Swearin’ never left. Unfortunately, Fall Into the Sun is bogged down by Gilbride’s emo-infused vocals on half the record. Gilbride’s always had that emo voice, but the music complimented it on Surfing Strange highlight “Echo Locate” and it all worked because he changed it up often. There are moments of pure bliss like "Untitled (LA)" but then curve balls like album closer “Future Hell” where Gilbride twangs in a borderline grating way. The end result is a mostly good album - Crutchfield is in prime form, and Gilbride's tracks aren't dumpster fires, they just don't seem to fit as well in the grand scheme of the album. It's a solid record, but it definitely isn’t the triumphant return one would hope for from a band as beloved as Swearin’.

 

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