For All The Beautiful People
By: Eric G.
Swell has been churning out lazy, hazy, downbeat love songs disguised as pop gems since its debut self-titled album in 1990. The band hit its stride in 1994 with 41- a collection of vaguely mysterious and bittersweet lullabies. Swell's acoustic driven setup glides beneath David Freel's lovelorn voice. The music is simple: basic chords strummed lightly with booming drums and rolling bass lines. It's rare that I find myself so happy to be so depressed, but this music drags you down with it willingly. Swell rides a fine line balancing tension and menace with such a quiet, laid back style.
For All The Beautiful People opens with "Today" an uncharacteristically rocking song that incorporates moody samples and a sinister chorus. Female back-up vocals don’t take away from the aggressiveness of "Make Up Your Mind", but rather add a weird dynamic to the song's already combative feel. Organs and horns occasionally sneak their way into the mix surprisingly without clogging up the sparseness of the band's sound. Freel's tone is resigned; he's content to wallow in the aftermath of his own bad luck and broken relationships. It's almost as though he’d prefer it that way.
Swell sounds vaguely like a morose version of the Violent Femmes without the gimmicky sing along melodies. The band's mordant humor permeates all of its albums, none of which have broken out of the underground. Almost a decade on, the band remains a well-kept secret. Hopefully, For All The beautiful People will change that.