If Fistful of Hollow seemed fast, well it is. Swingin’ Utters released Poorly Formed in 2013 and Here, Under Protest in 2011. With another one in the can in late 2014, the band is showing a little more experimentation this time around.
That’s not say their folky version of ’77 punk has lost a step. The best songs here are “I’m Not Coming Home,” “We Are Your Garbage,” and “Spanish,” all of which follow familiar arrangements. The item of note on Fistful is that the band is mixing it up, especially in the vocals. In “Tell Them Told You So” there is an almost toasting/rap kind of thing going on, which doesn’t work particularly well on first listen and , later, in “Napalm South” they adopt backing vocals with an almost spoken vibe. “Tibetan Book of the Damned” is just a little different as well, with a softer arrangement, straddling that acoustic/punk walk the band uniquely does. While it’s catchy, the song never fully jumps out as the vocal flow feels just a bit less fluid than their past work, which is a downer because one the of the Utters’ strengths has always been Johnny Peebucks’ ability to mix a mouthful lyric into a fast-spun delivery. That’s not say the record is a downer, just that there are some mis-steps along the way (though “Tell Them Told You So’s” delivery does grow on me with more listens). Some of the song fadeouts are a bit annoying from a production angle.
In “Spanish” they continue to deliver folksy acoustic songs, and “I’m Not Coming Home” and “Tonight’s Moons” are what they do best. “Tonight’s Moons” is the angriest of the bunch, with a vitriolic “are you thoroughly disgusted?/ then you’re probably well adjusted” line of affirmation out there for all the self-identified misfits, then offset with a subtly placed doo-wop backing vocal.
Fistful of Hollow is another solid release from a well-established band, but in its efforts to move on from 2013, it doesn’t really outshine its predecessor. None the less, the fans should enjoy it and it’s always welcome to see a band continue to branch out instead of remix their playbook.
7.1 / 10
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