It doesn’t take long for “Swears!” to live up to its title.
An F-bomb is giddily lobbed by the third word of the EP’s opening track, “Blanket Forts (I Like You),” which has a tone and vocabulary consistent with the rest of the five-song effort from Juneau-based singer and songwriter Marian Call.
That’s a good thing.
“Swears!” is a ripping and gripping 12-minute collection of tracks that falls somewhere between power pop and pop-punk. The gruff language ensures lyrics can stay both observational and twee and sticky-sweet hooks can pile up without things becoming too saccharine.
The EP’s calling-card pottymouth doesn’t seem exploitative or puerile. Its five songs have a sleek exterior and roiling interior life, and the vulgar verbiage fits.
“Swears!” finds Call — and a crackerjack backing band known as the Guttersnipes — reckoning with the very real toll that comes with spending mental and emotional capital on current events. Political division, general societal shortcomings, mental health and the pandemic aren’t always the EP’s overt text, but they are the deep veins of frustration the music mines, so some cussing feels earned.
Incidentally “Cuss!” is the title Call gave the “Good Place”-ed version of the EP, which features creative, radio- and office-friendly edits of the five songs.
While the edits introduce some comedy — flippin’ is always a funny word — sanding down the cursing somewhat surprisingly doesn’t do much the nullify the EP’s sense of urgency.
That’s a credit to Call as well as the Guttersnipes. Seth Boyer, Kelly Henriksen, Justin Smith, a “Mysterious Superspy Bassist” are credited on Call’s Patreon post announcing “Swears!” George Kuhar also earns a shoutout for arrangements and “epic soloing.”
All are in excellent form, play the hell out of the songs and the recording —done in KTOO’s studio —sounds pristine. The EP’s material isn’t just strong, it sounds great.
Exorcising punky anxiety while still making smile-producing music is a tough needle to thread, but it’s pulled off on “Swears!”
It’s a collection of songs that anyone who’s screamed in the car to drown out the roar of anxiety on the way to or from the office can relate to, but it sounds a heck of a lot more tuneful than any moments of automotive anarchy.
Recommended if you like: Metric, Ex Hex, Charly Bliss, pop-punk in general.