Like the Crunch of the Black Ice

For almost a year now, some of my friends and I have been sharing an album with one another, partly for exposure to new music and partly to give us something to listen to while we work, etc. We’re supposed to review it, rate it, and share those reviews/ratings with one another as well, but that doesn’t always happen. This week one guy was in Disneyland. I don’t know what was going on with anyone else, but the result was only I shared music with anyone.

But Chris did send me an album via Spotify six weeks ago. Since I didn’t get around to that at the time, now’s a good time.

Swearin’ – Surfing Strange (2013)

I know almost nothing about these guys other than they’re indie punk rock and Chris thought I’d like them. I really have no idea of what to expect.

And maybe it’s because I don’t really have any expectations, but I really like the two opening tracks. They just felt fresh. Maybe it’s just the acoustic guitar, but Dust in the Gold Sack reminds me of a punkier version (with a female singer) of a song I wrote once.

I also really liked Loretta’s Flowers. It was simple. But I kept expecting it to go somewhere. It felt like a slow build to something almost epic … it just never got there.

Some songs, like Melanoma, really sound like they were influenced by the Smashing Pumpkins, who I like alright but only a couple of handfuls of their songs. They also have a vaguely early-Weezer quality to them.

I liked this enough that I’ll probably come back to a couple of these songs, as well as check out their other album. 3/5

Chumbawamba – Tubthumper (1997)

Yeah, I went there. This, along with a couple of Elvis compilations, was one of the first CDs I ever bought. Or maybe asked one of my parents to get it for me for christmas or my birthday.

Anyway, this is their ninth studio album, although it was their first release on a major label.

There was a huge backlash when this album came out. I was totally ignorant of it at the time, because I was just starting puberty. Apparently they were a big name in the anarchy movement in Britain. They were punks.

I mean real punks. They are real non-conformists. They don’t wear jeans jackets with no sleeves and flannel patches and decorative safety pins. They don’t have mohawks and tattoos. They don’t play “punk” music. They don’t conform to that image of non-conformists. They do what they want. They never called themselves punks. Other people put that label on them because of the far left ideals in their lyrics.

So when they signed to a major label instead of being indie (which was way more punk in the ’90s), fans said they sold out. Chumbawamba knew that every label first cared about the bottom line. They also knew that on a major label the expectations were lower and they had the distribution to get their message to a wider audience – like a pubescent me in a Utah suburb.

I’ll be honest, I got this CD for one song. And as it turns out, it’s not even the best one on the album. It just got crazy amounts of attention at the time. While there are a dozen tracks on the album, there are more songs than that. Almost every track has some little ditty or an interview with the British common man at either end of the main tune. It’s quite the collection of political activism.

Except being American, too young or 15 years removed from the events described, I don’t always know what they’re taking a stand about. I often feel the same way about Marvin Gaye’s music. I think you understand what I mean.

I just like the music on this album. It’s been with me now for almost 20 years and I know every song better than almost anything else, aside from TMBG’s Flood or something by the Beatles. It’s a surprising mix of ’80s, disco, jazz, and pop rock.

I really love the groove on Creepy Crawling and pretty much everything about the main song on Scapegoat. Actually, I think that song is the reason I learned what a scapegoat is. I distinctly remember thinking people were saying “an escaped goat.” I was so confused as a child. Other songs, like Mary Mary, I Want More, and Good Ship Lifestyle have grown on me, but I really like this whole album. To this day I continue to hear the influence of this album, and Flood, in the music I write.

It might be a jaded slice of life for the working class in Britain in the mid-90s, but I really enjoy it. I hope you guys do too. Let me know what you thought about this or Swearin’ in the comments below.


2 thoughts on “Like the Crunch of the Black Ice

  1. Pingback: Never Forget that You’re Good to Go | Another American Audio-logue

  2. Pingback: If You’re Tossin’ and You’re Turnin’ and You Just Can’t Fall Asleep | An American Audio-logue

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