Let’s get right to it.
‘Alice’ stumbles in like a madman crawling up your leg with a knife in his teeth, before the squall and feedback, the jungle thump of the drum toms make way and the madman plunges the knife into your abdomen. Announcing that, after their briefest break between record releases, the $wingin’ Utter$ are back and kicking off their new record with one of their heaviest songs in years. Hell of a way to burst through the doors.
‘Fistful of Hollow’ is nothing more than further proof that Darius Koski is one of this, or any other generation’s greatest songwriting penmen. Smooth, easy punk melodies gliding through poetic wordplay delivered by his own laid-back delivery. Title tracks should usually be one of the better songs on an album, but often aren’t. This one is.
‘Tell Them Told You So’ shows us why the Utter$ are one of the genre’s most interesting, exciting and satisfying bands. Constantly striving for new sounds and new fitting the band with new ideas, this track is unlike anything they’ve done before. All the while sounding resolutely like the $wingin’ Utter$ we know and love. A simple guitar riff which leads Johnny Bonnel’s own funky vocal delivery and lyrical wordplay through quasi hip hop verses and indie pop sensibilities in the chorus. My favourite song on the record, incredibly fun.
‘From the Towers to the Tenements’ is full chested straight ahead punk rock greatness. Street level tales of life on the streets with a fistful of key changes and a simple energy that will tap toes. End of story.
‘Napalm South’ see’s the boys in the band in (their alter ego’s) Filthy Thieving Bastards territory. Dance floor punk rock Americana with waltzing bass lines, snare rim clicks and hand claps aplenty.
‘More or Less Moral’. More toe tapping and increases in heart rates as the band rips through the powerful verses to get us to the impossibly catchy chorus and the nautical stomp of the bridge. My only complaint is that it’s over too soon. Light on duration but heavy on the hook.
‘I’m Not Coming Home’ sounds the most like the Utter$ of the past couple albums. Which isn’t a complaint. New ground is fun, but sometimes the greatest comfort is in familiarity. A nice dichotomy to the song’s title then.
‘Spanish’. ‘Spanish’ is definitely newer territory. Incredibly catchy, like the rest of the album, with a moaning guitar and lyrical playfulness. It’s a cool song that’s both perfect for the album while managing to stand out. It even devolves, strangely, wonderfully, into stringed accompaniment on the outro.
‘Tibetan Book of the Damned’ is a gritty view of the apocalypse set against the country grind of musical cross reference these guys are just so damned good at. Again, it’s over much too soon.
But not as soon as ‘Agonist.’ The just over one minute wonder of a song which sports arguably the catchiest chorus on the record. This one will ignite the pits and at $wingin’ shows for years to come.
‘We Are Your Garbage’ is some of that homespun Californian self deprecation these boys are so fond of highlighting on every record. You won’t find a more humble group of guys than the guys in $wingin’ Utter$, but on songs like ‘We Are Your Garbage’ and ‘Poorly Formed’ from their last record, they take it a step further. Of course, all of it with a tongue in cheek sensibility. I hope.
‘Tonight’s Moons’ and ‘No Talking’ are Ramones-y rippers that wouldn’t sound out of place on ‘Juvenile Product of the Working Class.’
While ‘Unaffected’ is a pretty punk poem and a song I actually found quite moving, both lyrically and musically.
Finally, ‘End of the Weak’ (not a typo), is a song that is the musical equivalent of laying on a grassy knoll and watching the clouds drift by overhead. A song of quiet contemplation and restrained resolution with (I believe) banjo, xylophone, violin and a bass guitar which manages at times to sound like jug, as your guides. A beautiful song. It would be hard to imagine a more perfect ending to this record.
Fistful of Hollow (out on Fat Wreck Chords) sees the $wingin’ Utter$ dancing on the sharpest edge of a creative peak that has produced three records in just over three years. As a collaborative effort, this is one of the band’s most involved recordings, with Darius, Johnny, bassist Miles Peck and guitarist Jack Dalrymple all contributing to what is, in my opinion, one of the band’s best record’s thus far. All killer, no filler (right Sum-41?)
I’m jumping the gun about six weeks here, but screw it: Fistful of Hollow is the best record of 2014.