Swingin’ Utters – Fistful of Hollow


Album

Fistful of Hollow

Label

Fat Wreck Chords / Shock

Year

2014

For Fans Of

Dead Kennedys - Dropkick Murphys - The Pogues

Summary

Swingin’ Utters refuse to burn out, and ‘Fistful of Hollow’ gives us a reason to be extremely grateful for that.

Rating

90 / 100

The return of a band formed in the eighties brings with it the uncertainty of whether they’ll sink or swim in the chaotic climate of modern music. Swingin’ Utters’ latest LP ‘Fistful of Hollow’ proves that they’re well and truly capable of staying afloat. The record is a glorious weave of folk and punk, and a welcome ripper from these alternative mainstays.

The brief length of this collection of songs is apt –the punky, fast songs are short enough to retain their intensity devoid of repetition. The tracks don’t leave you any time to skip them. Instead, they reinforce Swingin’ Utters’ classic, authentic sound. Notably, opener ‘Alice’ kills it; particularly at the three quarter mark, when it drops its volume and then builds itself back up. The dynamics of the track, combined with the fact that it clocks in at just over two minutes, renders it proof of the validity of the overused phrase ‘short and sweet’.  Likewise, ‘More or Less Moral’, ‘I’m Not Coming Home’ and ‘Agonist’ all sit on a short-lived playing time, further building on the appeal of their textured, visceral content free of excess.

Returning to their late 20th century punk origins is also shown to pay off for Swingin’ Utters on ‘Tell Them Told You So’, with fast and cutting vocals navigating through light, summer-sounding guitar riffs. Ironically, ‘We Are Your Garbage’ is a song that proves that this band is anything but trash.

Despite the appeal of what Swingin’ Utters do best – belting classic tunes –what makes this record so successful is also the fact that it’s progressive. The eponymous ‘Fistful of Hollow’ experiments with singing that drifts into being more melodic than past efforts, and has a spotlighted guitar lead that is both intriguing and intricate. ‘Spanish’ is driven by a somewhat anomalous acoustic guitar and has an eerie ending, and ‘Tibetan Book of the Damned’ has a spoken introduction and soft instrumentals before ushering in the marriage of a happy tune with foreboding vocals. Proof of the case in point are the frenetic ‘doo’s’ that precede its apocalyptic prophecy ‘this is the way the world ends.

In order to propel their experimentation, Swingin’ Utters have also expanded upon their unique union of folk and punk. Triumphantly, they do it in a way that doesn’t make them The Pogues 2.0. Instead, they dabble at their own pace, which is exhibited by the subtle resemblance ‘From the Towers to the Tenements’ has to a folk-story. Less subtle is ‘Unaffected’, where guitars and drums bounce off one another to backdrop the folky tune. The genres intertwine, but don’t tangle.  ‘Napalm South’ hones in on coupling dark subjects and sonically upbeat tunes, with a jolly sounding rhythm formed by country-like clap-along beats and an insanely exclaimed ‘woo!’

The closer on this record is, however, its shining track. ‘End Of The Weak’ is timid and Southern, and it fuses together a country bumpkin backing (dropping the occasional bell) with haunting references to illicit substances and land mines. The fluttering instrumentals mid-song are flawless, but this song will leave your bones chilled for hours after your earphones stop singing. It’s the sort of achingly beautiful effect that music doesn’t often have, and it makes us hope to God that the proclamation that Swingin’ Utters will ‘stick around/’til it’s time to die’ on ‘No Talking’ holds true.

Conclusion

‘Fistful of Hollow’ is a record that you couldn’t get from anyone else, an assertion that speaks volumes about the value of the fifteen tracks that Swingin’ Utters have produced.  If you did have any doubts, this record will likely bring you to the same conclusion as us: the resurrection of these punk legends was definitely a blessing and not a curse.

Tracklisting

1. Alice

2. Fistful of Hollow

3. Tell Them Told You So

4. From the Towers to the Tenements

5. Napalm South

6. More or Less Moral

7. I’m Not Coming Home

8. Spanish

9. Tibetan Book of the Damned

10. Agonist

11. We Are Your Garbage

12. Tonight’s Moons

13. No Talking

14. Unaffected

15. End of the Weak

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