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July 15, 2024

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Swingin' Utters
Five Lessons Learned (Fat Wreck Chords)

By: Alex Steininger

Staying together for nearly ten years is an accomplishment in itself, but San Francisco's Swingin' Utters has a lot more going for them then the ability to work together. Playing punk rock in the spirit of '77, with a heavy Brit-Punk influence, these guys kick out great punk rock that is not only fast and hard, but open to reflecting other influences.

FIVE LESSONS LEARNED kicks off with the title track, and as you'd expect, they rip right into some ferocious guitars, hard hitting drums, and brain-swelling bass lines. Ripping through some intense punk, the vocals soon enter in and then the real fun begins. Filled with anger, the vocals are rough and have a lot of the 'punk' growl that is very common in fast punk bands. But unlike other bands, they build it into the music and need it to make the songs work. Painting pictures of a man angered at society, the vocals have the power to give off vivid imagines with their own interpretations of the lyrics. The vocals aren't the only important too here, though. Without the guitars, screaming through the number with fury, the number would be nothing. The drums and the bass also work together to form a solid foundation for the rest of the band to build off of. "A Promise To Distinction" shows a different side of the band, letting go of all the fury-punk and toning things down a bit to allow some other influences some times. Nodding to Irish pub music, as well as the pop genre, this number concentrates on hooks to fuel the song. As they stop the song and then jump into the chorus, you can't help but feel emotions when the vocals sing out "You're not the one." Blended with other lyrics, and the music, this one line slams into you harder than anything else in the song, and ironically, it happens to be the softest line in the song. Another brilliant line that sets itself out above the rest of the lyrics is "I flew home when I was 21, young enough to be the father of someone." Maybe it's just me, but that line can mean so many things, and how they mix it into the song is just great. Great musicianship and strong lyrics, this song has got to be one of my favorites on the album. "This Bastard's Life" shows the band using a piano, which is the first for them. Mixing in a jazzy touch courtesy of the piano, the fusion of jazz, pop, and punk gives the band a unique sound, helping to push the band above other bands of their same style. Also mixing in an organ, they cover a lot of ground on this song and the outcome is a very delicious number that can be danced too or jumped around with. "As Sure As I'm Down" jumps back to some of their standard style of punk rock. The guitar churns through the number, thick enough to slice concrete, while the bass is so heavy it almost overpowers the music. Not to worry though, with the drums pounding in the background, the rhythm section finds itself and works together to give the song muscle, rather than overpower it. "Unpopular Again" shows the band doing a little ska, horns included. Starting out very slow, the song soon builds itself up the point where they unleash a danceable upbeat. From there they keep you dancing right up until the end, with occasional horns and tambourines making an appearance here and there. "Fruitless Fortunes" closes out the disc with some more Irish influences. Starting out strong, and ending strong, the only thing you'll want to do is listen to this album over and over again.

When I put these guys in, I wasn't expecting what I heard. Rather, I was expecting some standard Southern Cali pop-punk. Boy, way I surprised. After listening to these guys a few times, they've made a fan out of me. And anyone else that hears this album will become a fan as well. I'll give this an A.

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