If the name isnt clear enough for you, the Swingin Utters new record, Hatest Grits: B-Sides and Bullshit, does not contain new material. It also does not contain greatest hits, which is a little less clear. Instead, there are (surprise!) b-sides, demos, three Cock Sparrer songs, and other unreleased odds and ends.
If youre new to the band, theyve been repping San Francisco and Fat Wreck for well over a decade now, doing the street punk thing, but with more melody and sincerity than most of the cookie cutter up-the-punx types.
The Utters are a band that Im familiar with, but not on a very close level. Ive heard them throughout the years, saw them at least once, and have a record and a few comp tracks and 7s sitting around. Somehow, I swear some version of Catastrophe has been on each of these, B-Sides included.
Street punk is among the most straight forward sub-genres, and the fact that Swingin Utters can do it without sounding clichéd is a compliment in and of itself. While a lot of bands repeat the song title over and over again and call it a chorus, the Utters piece together melodies and, yes, even harmonies. At their best, they remind me of Lets Go-era Rancid, with the main difference being that they dont harmonize quite as well, and their pace is more relaxed. The Utters have always been willing to slow things down, with pseudo-country and Celtic influence showing prominently. These songs maintain the same working class, everyman backbone that the faster, punker songs exhibit, giving them an authenticity instead of feeling contrived. Think somewhere in between Mike Ness and Stiff Little Fingers.
This record has three main parts: b-sides and unreleased tracks, demos, and the hidden tracks. The unreleased and b-sides are pretty solid, typical Swingin Utters: catchy choruses with fist-in-the-air accentuation. After that brings the demo versions of older songs.
Pretty much no disc of demos has ever interested me in a second listen, but diehards should enjoy the different versions of familiar songs, and these demos sound much better than the four track recordings that appear on most collections. The songs are more skeletal, but they arent fuzzy or cheap sounding. In addition, you get liner notes with detailed comments on each track (Oh yeah, I threw up twice during the recording of this song.) and a memorable look back at the band and its rotating cast.
As for the songs with higher quality recordings: theyre mostly enjoyable, but its far from their best work. It covers all their different styles and spans across the bands lifespan, but nothing really sticks out as more than a b-side. It sounds like a random collection of songs, which it is, and not a cohesive album.
With this release you can tell that the band enjoys what they do, and theyre thankful for the career theyd had thus far. However, this is a release for the diehards. If youre just finding Swingin Utters look for a different starting point.
6.5 / 10
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