Reviews Swingin' Utters Here, Under Protest

Swingin' Utters

Here, Under Protest

You can’t accuse Swingin’ Utters of phoning it in. Here, Under Protest is the band’s first studio record in eight years and, unlike some of their contemporaries who release at a similar rate, the record shows notable growth and attention to songwriting nuance. While the San Fran band started out with a strong bent toward street punk anthems, they’ve gradually shifted the focus away from repetitive power chords and, like Social Distortion before them, reached for the internal aspects of the punk lifestyle instead of relying on speed, aggression, and sloganeering. The new record continues on this path, with few burners but a lot of heart.

Swingin’ Utters have walked a line between a defined gritty, street punk influence alongside more traditional musical styles ranging between Americana, folk, and country. While they gnash teeth and raise a middle finger with the best of them, they’re equally comfortable pulling up a chair and an acoustic guitar. With the new record they maintain this divide. Songs such as “Brand New Lungs,” “Taking the Long Way,” and “Lepers, Thieves and Whores” are classic Utters, taking that Streets of San Francisco ‘77-fueled sound with a coarse melodic sensibility. As the band ages, though, the fast-to-slow ratio on their records has decreased and, to get right to the point, Here, Under Protest is a mid-tempo record. The majority of the songs feature big guitar crunch and raspy melodic harmonies, but their punch comes from internal sources instead of rhythmic ferocity and volume. The songwriting style hasn’t changed, but the focus is drawn toward the melody, harmony, and personal reflection. The pacing goes back and forth, never slowing to a draw or rising to fist-pumping anthems either—wavering somewhere in between without a definitive climax. By the time of the closer, “Effortless Amnesiac,” the relaxed yet raspy style is well-established and it’s not even surprising when Johnny Peebucks actually sings instead of the usual punk rock shout.

Never a band to release an album of sound-a-like songs, the band mixes it up here with “Kick It Over,” a song so steeped in Buzzcocks pop (complete with backing “Ooo Ooo’s”) that it had me double-checking the file info, and “Scary Brittle Frame,” a countrified number defined by its twangy lead guitar and the incessant wordplay. Here, Under Protest may not be the best album Swingin’ Utters have released, but it’s a solid record that fits the sound without feeling stagnant. Fans of the band will be pleased and new comers should be intrigued to seek out more.

7.0 / 10Loren
See also
KFAI - Roar of the Underground
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