First things first, Poorly Formed packs some nice verbiage. With word drops like “crumb bums” and “rigmarole” the Swingin’ Utters have incorporated some lively language into their 8th studio album. It follows 2011’s decent but underwhelming Here, Under Protest and, with the new one they seem to be back in the swing of things. Poorly Formed is far more interesting and lively than its predecessor.
The new record sees the Utters maintaining their blend of ’77 punk, Celtic and acoustic influence, and occasional bluegrass. The growth on this one comes in the group harmonies and song structures that incorporate a modern indie element to the songwriting. No, it’s still classic Swingin’ Utters punk, but the song structures show more variance and the guitars play off one another more, utilizing fewer chords to drive the songs. Case in point, the guitar lines in the title track sound like The Pixies. For any doubters after reading that last bit, songs like “Stuck in a Circle,” “Pour Beans,” and “Greener Grass” deliver singalong streetpunk without any sacrifice, fitting with their established ability to pull from new influences without losing the heart of their style. While Five Lessons Learned threw some listeners for a loop, the growth since has been expected and welcome.
A curious track on the record is the self aware “I’m a Little Bit Country” which, lyrically, seems to be directly about the band, concluding that “I’m a little bit of everything.” Usually meta songs are only successful at a subtle level, but here the tongue-in-cheek works without overstepping its bounds. While it’s not an album standout, it’s a nice little break in the tempo. “Military Barbara Billingsley” loses me with its TV-themed lyrics, but otherwise it’s a stable, quality record full of rhythmic punk burners, singalong choruses and lyrics that are mostly thoughtful with a few comical asides hidden within. The strength of the band has long been their heart and, personally, that inflection in vocalist Johnny Peebucks’ delivery that just has something to it, something hard to pinpoint, that just pulls a good song into a great moment. With Poorly Formed, the Swingin’ Utters are showing that a band can age gracefully, continuing to evolve in sound instead of retreading their earlier work.
7.6 / 10
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 ...
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 ...
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