Reviews Swingin' Utters Hatest Grits: B-Sides and Bullshit

Swingin' Utters

Hatest Grits: B-Sides and Bullshit

If the name isn’t 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 you’re new to the band, they’ve 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 I’m familiar with, but not on a very close level. I’ve heard them throughout the years, saw them at least once, and have a record and a few comp tracks and 7”s 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 Let’s Go-era Rancid, with the main difference being that they don’t 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 aren’t 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: they’re mostly enjoyable, but it’s far from their best work. It covers all their different styles and spans across the band’s 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 they’re thankful for the career they’d had thus far. However, this is a release for the diehards. If you’re just finding Swingin’ Utters look for a different starting point.

6.5 / 10Loren
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6.5 / 10

6.5 / 10

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