SWING HERO – You’ve Never Been So Alone EP

swing heroHaving gone through multiple lineup changes, Los Angeles based alt-rockers Swing Hero found themselves pared down to a duo by the end 2014. The slim band arrangement has no impact on their sound, however – on the three songs that inform their ‘You’ve Never Been So Alone’ 10” EP (their third record, released at the tail end of the year) Marshall Gallager (guitar/bass/vox) and Ben Scarboro (drums) make a glorious racket.  Their wall of sound is typically retro, pulling a huge amount of influence from both shoegaze and grunge (and outlying subgenres thereof), but always sounds somehow timeless in its execution.

Following a brief buzz of an amp, a drum signifies the arrival of a surprisingly complex slab of grungy alternative rock.  ‘Interest’ shows most of Swing Hero’s talents in a powerful opening number. Starting quietly, the first verse reveals Scarboro to be a player with a great talent, his snares providing much of the interest, while a solemn lead vocal from Gallager bares more than a passing resemblance to Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch with its somewhat dour tone.  Before too long, the temptation to crank the volume takes over and the main guitar riff really asserts its presence.  Adopting a thick, overdriven tone all round, a midpaced, head-nodding, metallic clang just drives its way relentlessly into the ears. Swing Hero are in full flow of their nineties revivalism, but somewhere underneath, there are still strong tuneful qualities.  This surprising attention to melody comes not just in Gallager’s well-rounded delivery – by now risen to present a more powerful rock sound – but also via some unexpected “woo woo” backing vocals lurking somewhere within.  By this time, the general volume of the performance recalls Sonic Youth’s more tuneful output, even if the sounds are less discordant than Thurston and Kim’s preferences.  Fans of post-grunge and shoegaze sounds will find an almost instant kinship in this number.

Despite making a feature of a bass drum, ‘Grown Up’ is much quieter at first, a clean toned guitar tinkling, as various shimmering sounds pitch against another crooned vocal, all very much representing the louder end of the dreampop ouvre.  The band could easy have constructed a full number from the more introspective sounds, but revert to their comfort blanket of distorted guitars for the chorus and beyond.  This is by no means a bad decision – they sound so at ease rocking out after all.  While the vocals represent some of the best performance on this EP – a mix of obvious melody and reverbed harmonies – it’s the instrumental work that really stands out and marks Swing Hero as a band to watch. The use of multi-tracked guitars, effects pedals  and relatively simple bass thuds evoke strong memories of the heaviest parts of The Smashing Pumpkins’ classic ‘Siamese Dream’ and the artier part of the nineties alternative rock scene.   Across five and a half minutes, ‘Home Is Where You Make It’ makes an even broader feature of such crashing riffs and a wall of cymbals, churning a distorted riff in a style slightly slower than expected.  It’s not a great step from ‘Grown Up’ but is a stronger effort overall, thanks to such an insistent hook line. It’s here the EPs title appears, the line repeated as a simplistic refrain intercut with a few old-fashioned “doo doo”s for good measure. It’s a hook that’s so insistent that once it takes hold, its almost entirely possible to forget the rest of the lyrics in an instant.  Whether echoed and shoegazey vocals or grungy guitar riffs are your thing, this track should be earmarked for listening and a possible download purchase.

With a bang up production job, this sounds great with the volume cranked.  It may be more reliant on crunching and droning atmospheres than obvious songs, but Swing Hero push all the right buttons…and with absolute ease.  Quieter and more focused than A Place To Bury Strangers, more tuneful than Yuck and edgier than Yo La Tengo, the three tracks presented on this EP represent the best in guitar-driven, brilliantly loud indie rock.  Recommended.

December 2014