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ATP! Album Review: The Swellers - Running Out Of Places To Go EP

When The Swellers announced "Running Out Of Places To Go" back in September, they took the opportunity to re-plant their heavy-footed DIY stance. The guys recorded the EP themselves in Nick Diener’s (vox/guitar) Michigan home and will not only be releasing it themselves, but through their own new label Snowbird Songs.

It seems like a bunch of positive changes for The Swellers, but it all comes from something a bit more pessimistic: “a frustrating year of changes,” as they describe on their website. The frequent label changes (The Swellers released their last 7” "Vehicle City Blues" off SideOneDummy after departing Fueled by Ramen last April) resulted in their decision to take back control, a mentality often shared by musicians when they self-release and a mentality that often lands as a prominent theme on subsequent records.

Unfortunately, that theme has landed on "Running Out Of Places to Go" and it’s turned into a cliché. The anger and frustration over a rough couple of months for the band definitely resonates on the record, but it’s done in overkill; Instead of a release of pent-up aggression, the EP is an exhausted sigh. Though the rimming percussion of opener“Hands” teases some adrenaline, that exhaustion is immediately heard in Nick’s voice, as is this theme of new found power with which The Swellers have decided to drench every song.

As 'Let Me In', 'Bad For Me' and 'Making Waves', pull the record along, this motif gets exhausted in lyrical form with lines like “When the buildings fall down / I’ll be standing my ground” ('Let Me In') and “So thanks a lot / ‘cause I’m making waves and you’re not” (“Making Waves”).  While the band intend to declare this record as the flipping-off to an old friend who screwed you over with the middle finger of your success, The Swellers end up looking desperate to prove they don’t the backing of a label to keep going.

Luckily ender “Running Out Of Places To Go” reconciles this overkill as the best song on the EP – not because it’s the longest, or because it’s the last, but because it is genuine. Guitars play off each other between harmony and atonal progressions, creating a tension weighted by the slower tempo of the track. This is what the rest of the album should have sounded like: the weight of exhaustion and pessimism and willingness to keep going.

The Swellers are on-point with their musicianship for this release.  A few choral chants and Jonathan Diener’s drumming show the band haven’t lost their touch. But self-releasing music in a declaration of independence and creative control does not always accumulate into a good album.  The Swellers were given an opportunity to do everything their way, to experiment, to show off just what they claimed was being held back by previous labels; instead, "Running Out Of Places To Go" is a monotone and one-dimensional EP that failed to go as deep as it should have.


Carolyn Vallejo 

"Running Out Of Places To Go" is out on 16th October through Snowbird Songs.

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