Having the Fat Wreck Chords logo on your record is a stamp of punk approval. Sure, they have released questionable records in the past, that is the law of averages finally kicking in, but very few. Much is made of the family values that are ardently displayed by the label. Fat Mike, to not stifle his acts, only ever offers bands 1 year contracts; yet some of the roster have stayed their entire careers with the label, a polar opposite to how the music industry game is normally played. Labels want you while your hot, and when you’re not, you’re gone. That’s Fat Mike’s secret, he doesn’t sign a band because they will make him money. He does so because he likes what he hears, and is rarely wrong.
One of the aforementioned Fat Wreck Chords main stays are Swingin’ Utters. A band that has been in existence now for over 25 years, albeit including a lengthy break. In 2003, the Utters decided to go on hiatus. Their own families needed them and life wouldn’t wait. Swingin Utters fans waited as patiently as they could and in 2011 were rewarded with the excellent Here, Under Protest, the band’s first album in 8 years. The band were back. Two years later we are graced with another album, Poorly Formed.
‘Librarians Are Hiding Something’ starts things off in style. The track was made available on 7″ last year and is special for a few reasons. Firstly the track marks the beginning for new bassist Miles Peck who was brought in to replace the departing Spike Slawson, hence making his debut on a Swingin’ Utters record. Secondly it acts as Jack Dalrymple’s debut in a songwriting sense, as he co-wrote the song with vocalist Johnny Bonnel. It also just happens to be a great track and a very strong start to the album.
Second track ‘Brains’ is fantastic, a hi tempo song that takes its influence from various things not excluding legendary ‘protopunks’ The Velvet Underground. There is a definite progression to the bands sound and ‘Brains’ is a perfect example of that. This isn’t just another punk rock record, although Swingin’ Utters are certainly no ordinary punk band. They are not afraid to explore new territory and do so with great results. While fresh faced acts churn out soulless nonsense on a daily basis that marketing companies try to force feed the public; Swingin’ Utters, who after a quarter of a century, are still writing original and relevant music, and managing to do so while keeping it interesting. No easy feat.
‘Stuck In A Circle’ takes a more traditional route and would nestle comfortably on previous album Here Under Protest. It’s a great track and its quiet-loud direction is a refreshing change. Next up the band get all blue grass on our asses with ‘Im A Little Bit Country’. It’s a simple ditty and is extremely catchy as a result. One day Guitarist Darius Koski found Bonnel’s penned lyrics amongst his own and subsequently wrote the song in half an hour, the result will surely become a live favourite for years to come.
Direct punk numbers such as ‘Dreadlock Dread Reggae’ are the band’s bread and butter and something few bands do better. The humorously titled ‘The Fake Rat Of Dave Navarro’ is similar, complete with band harmonies, its 2 minutes in length is seemingly over much faster, now that’s relativity.
Nobody wants to hear a track by track analysis of an album, unless it’s coming from the band themselves; which is what this review would end up as, if all the songs that made an impression were listed. They’re all good, each song has its own charm and energy. The Swingin’ Utters that everybody knows and loves are present and accounted for, the high qualty punk rock is a given. It is no surprise that Poorly Formed is a good album, but only the lucky few who give it a listen will actually understand just how good.
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