Words by Sean Moeller, Illustrations by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Nick Krill and Jon Low
The latest posting on The Swims official blog is a crest, surely an ancient and much revered emblem of stature and royalty in the Old Country, that the Philadelphia band is using as the artwork on what appear to be name tags meant to be worn at the release party this weekend for the new album, Itemlord. It's going to be a fancy party, from the looks of it. There are lemon and limes all halved up ready for juicers, an illustrated hand gripping an axe in a menacing fashion and hoagie sandwiches peeking out from behind the good-looking fruit. All of those things (in addition to lots of booze, Vegas showgirls, a menagerie of all kinds of dogs, a la the Spike Jonze "Sweater Song" video, canned whipped cream, illegal fireworks, edible panties required to be worn at all times, strobe lights and gorilla suits for everyone - not to mention a bunch of different kinds of finger foods) will make this one of the most memorable parties served up to commemorate the release of a compact disc in United States history. Here's betting dollars to doughnuts that Swims lead singer, Brian Langan, has already thought of all those things and has even called in favors from Robbie Knievel and all of his friends who happen to be ventriloquists and contortionists to do their worst when the lights go down or the room explodes. The only reason that we mention any of these things is because they're the images that oddly blossom from many listens to Itemlord. which has taken the band's love of pop hooks and driven them right off the cliff, once again. All hooks and melodies are given complete freedom to be about whatever they'd like to be about and they are allowed to act as they'd like. This isn't to suggest that the new album or the band act the clown. On the contrary, it's a perfected playfulness that is more studied and brilliant in its style, witty and sharp in its mannerisms. You could never call Langan's songs sillier that anything Mangum or Barnes or any of the original crew of Elephant 6 Collective songwriters were writing and turning into a movement down in Athens in the late 90s and early 00s. He and the Swims are significant musicians with more than enough ideas and unlike some writers, those ideas never bog the songs down, anchoring them in the mud because there's no editor working upstairs. Itemlord is an album that has so many different colored feathers and could appeal to purists and pop weirdos looking for the connecting point between The Beatles and some kind of dementia, though there's always been some of that in a lot of the work that those guys did in their short time together. It's an abstraction of so many different variations of the pop song that you lose track by the time the 12 songs have passed. So bring on the leisure suits and hippie pants made entirely out of popcorn and release the crows into the room and get the party started. It will be fun like that and every time after the party, when the record begins playing, you'll still feel the pecking and your dancing to get away, kind of liking everything about the chaos, thinking it's the most fun you've ever had with your popcorn clothes on.
The Swims Official Site