Swirlies - Blonder Tongue Audio Baton
Usually, when discussing “noise rock”, groundbreaking bands like Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine inevitably come up. While I’m sure many noise rock purists will argue that these two bands hardly define the genre, they certainly are (arguably) the two with the most far-reaching influence. There are countless music fans who enjoy both of these bands tremendously (I being one of them), but usually it’s easy for them to pick who they prefer. Usually.
Maybe you prefer Sonic Youth’s screaming wall of blistering terror, with arty monotone lyrics and chiming out-of-tune-yet-still-ringing-like-church-bells-guitar. Or maybe you prefer My Bloody Valentine’s sonic wash of fuzzy, sweet melodies massaging and perforating your eardrum all at once. No matter how slight your preference may be, most people would not have a difficult time choosing.
But both of these bands have entered each other’s area of expertise at one time or another; see Sonic Youth’s dreamy “Shadow of a Doubt” and My Bloody Valentine’s intense “You Made Me Realise” for proof. So maybe the idea of a band that can take the defining qualities of Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine, mix them together, and even make it their own isn’t too ridiculous.
It isn’t. It happened nearly two decades ago, whether you noticed or not. The Swirlies are (unfortunately) relatively unknown, even though this album was released during the “Shoegazing” era of alternative rock. The guitars are bendy and in bizarre tunings, there are male-female vocals, odd melodies, everything you can ask for. This album should be a much more well-known shoegaze classic. But The Swirlies are much more than a run of the mill ”shoegazer” band from the early 90s; they have tons more going for them. The squalls of noise, at times, isn’t exactly pretty. It isn’t very shimmery or reverb-heavy. The Swirlies were always more punk-inclined than their shoegaze peers (they were released on Taang!, after all). I think the biggest thing that sets them apart is the structure of the songs themselves. Most of these songs are not in a conventional pop structure. There are stops and starts, film dialogue excerpts, and drastic changes in tempos and melodies. I think the most remarkable thing about this album is how nearly each track feels like two songs in one. Prog-Shoegaze? Eh…no, but close.
This album has been called a “lo-fi answer to Loveless”, which I think is a fair, if a bit bland summation of this album. It might not have the staying power or earth-shattering qualities of Loveless or Daydream Nation, but Blonder Tongue Audio Baton is its own thing. The Swirlies were too exciting to stare at their shoes all day.
This is the best fucking album.
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