Swill – Turn The Lights Back On

 Swill – Turn The Lights Back On

Swill – Turn The Lights Back On – Album Review

Credit where credit is due…it’s not too often that I end up hearing a first track from a record and wonder if I’m ever just gonna be able to move on to track two without several repeats of what I’d experienced, but “Turn The Lights Back On,” the opening/title cut from the new album by Buffalo-based Rock-band Swill accomplishes exactly that.  No joke folks…you put this track on for yourself, and you’ll know full-well that they’ve got plenty to be excited about with this new album coming out, in addition to an official release party happenin’ on March 19th this year.  Think about it…perfect Rock song…LIVE FREAKIN’ MUSIC…after everyone’s been caged up for the past couple years?  Please y’all – Swill’s gonna burn the whole barn down with “Turn The Lights Back On” whenever they play it in the set…I’d be stickin’ with this cut up front if I was them – everything about this track says LISTEN TO ME NOW!  Like…this is SAVAGELY FUN, rhythmic, melodic, and full of attitude that certainly resonates with me just as strongly as their brilliant harmonies do – “Turn The Lights Back On” is an insightful tune about the ignorant ways of the world and a genuine plea for a wee bit of change in that regard.  This is the sound though y’all…make no mistake about it – Swill has got THE vibe, and they crank it outta the amplifiers loud & proud straight outta the gate with their title track, stellar guitar solo & all.  This is their 4th album as is my understanding…and they’re definitely playing like it as the record begins – they are CRUSHING this like a unified entity, and shifting between a gritty Rock sound & stunning Alt/Indie hooks in the chorus that would have you convinced they’re an early incarnation of R.E.M. in their college years.  Swill might sound more refined than that comparison with the advantages of modern day production & all…but you get the idea…they’ve put in a remarkable twist in the vocal melody/direction of this song as it shifts from verse to chorus, going from good to great in a heartbeat, and raising the stakes to all-out irresistibly addictive levels.  I’m not even kidding when I tell ya…normally I DO just move right on to track two and wait patiently for an album to cycle around on repeat as I’m reviewing a record…and this is one of the rare times where I did NOT.  “Turn The Lights Back On” gets me so amped up with energy I could toss a chair across the room just because; I looped this badass cut on repeat many, many times as I worked my way into Swill’s world of wild Rock.

I ain’t gonna lie to ya, such a positive start for a Rock band is fairly unheard of around these pages of ours – I’ve long said it’s one of the toughest genres to stand out in these days, but Swill has proven that it can absolutely still be done.  “Heavens Getting Crowded” fits somewhere between The Strokes, Stereophonics, The Killers, and a more distinct Indie style of sound in the mix…not entirely sure who I’m choose, but it’d be something maybe more like The Editors, or even something like Yellow Paper Planes from this independent scene we share…could be something obscure like Sandbox or Change Of Heart.  Am I as big of a fan of this second tune as I was of the first?  No.  But let’s be real here – that’s not on me, that’s on THEM – they wrote & performed the living daylights outta “Turn The Lights Back On” – and while they’ve certainly put superhuman effort into “Heavens Getting Crowded” as well, hey, we’ve all got our favorites right?  I dig the guitars a lot in this second tune, their harmonies remain a huge part of what makes their songs continually engaging, the rhythm section is tight, the vocals are strong & the lyrics as well – you see what I’m saying?  There’s really nothing technical that you could cite to complain about, it’s really all down to personal taste & what gels with you more than something else.  If you told me that “Heavens Getting Crowded” was your favorite tune, I ain’t gonna fight ya about it…there’s no reason it couldn’t qualify.  The most you’ll find me conceding is that, at least on those first couple spins, I felt like Swill had a much stronger verse than chorus…but every single time the guitars start their grind towards the main hooks now, I can’t help but feel extremely excited about the energy that builds up.  I suppose if anything, the music side of this tune might do it for me more than the vocals, but I wouldn’t rule out the hooks from the mic on a track like “Heavens Getting Crowded” growing on me daily either.

Their execution and passion carries a whole lot of weight when it comes right down to it.  There’s a lot of “A Fable” that I wanna rail against naturally…it’s essentially The Kinks at the start, like much of Rock is based on…but like…Swill BRINGS IT to their music in such a convincing & mischievous way that it really pulls you on board.  Plus, to be fair to the band, the chorus of this cut, while perhaps not necessarily raising the stakes of its irresistible pull in the verses, does at least diversify the song into something new that you’ll feel like you haven’t heard before.  Lyrically – “A Fable” is somethin’ ELSE…and that would definitely be one of my favorite parts about this cut…listen to the clever innuendo laced into the words of the second verse and you’ll know exactly what I mean.  Ultimately, Swill has gone amps-up in pursuit of giving the Rock fans what they love here, while also making sure they bring their own ideas to it as well…and I’m not here to argue that they don’t succeed with their intentions here – they do.  I can hear it, I get it, I get it – people ARE going to love “A Fable,” and I totally understand why that is…it’s a case of something borrowed, something blue, something old, and something new, you feel me?  What I can tell ya without question, is that the CRUNCH the bass, guitars, and drums get goin’ on at the most heated & intense they get on “A Fable” would make the Stone Temple Pilots blush a little…they’ve got a MEATY sound, and they play like their lives depend on it.  While “A Fable” will likely remind you of something you’ve heard somewhere along the way from the history of Rock’s real roots on-forward, there’s no denying that Swill does what Swill wants to, and they do it really damn well.  I’ve got nothing against any band or artist simply wanting to rock out for rock’s sake – and I’d wager that’s what “A Fable” really is & provides them with…believe me, if you’re in the crowd for their release party, you’ll see the place go OFF when they haul this cut on stage & fire up the mayhem, mischief, and fun through their amplifiers.

Lighters UP!  Here comes the baby-maker…  Okay…HOLD…maybe it’s not quite yet…but it sure feels like it’s coming as “Better Off” begins.  Swill ALMOST seems to be shifting into a more chilled out & mellow moment…at least for the opening verse – but BRACE YOURSELVES dear readers, dear friends – they’re gonna EXPLODE when it comes time to the chorus of “Better Off.”  It’s a genuinely interesting post-pandemic tune…trust me when I tell ya, I’ve already heard a whole bunch of’em out there in what I do & all I listen to, and this gives ya one of the most realistic & objective perspectives on it all.  Honestly, it’s a song that’s not all that far removed from something you’d find on a page in The Boss’ playbook – but once again, Swill is able to morph that whole style & adapt it into a sound that really works for THEM.  I love the live-wire, raw electricity you hear in the vocals here…kind of like a more evolved version of something you’d find in The Most Beautiful Losers…there’s such a noticeable attitude and edge in their music that you can’t help but feel it, and MAN is it effective.  You feel the energy and emotion in a track like “Better Off” – and you feel the authentic release that comes through in the hooks – the conviction is right there in the words and the confident way they play together…you believe in every syllable of every word, and that makes a massive difference in listening to any song out there.  Part of me thinks they should probably be taking a good look at “Better Off” as a potential single…somewhere in the process anyhow…accessibility-wise, there’s a metric ton here that speaks volumes on behalf of what Swill can do – does it beat out their title-track as the number-one choice as a single?  I ain’t in the band and I don’t get a vote so far as I know…all I can tell ya for sure is that they’re cranking out single-worthy sound with a remarkable average of verifiable hooks per song…and that I’d definitely be taking a close look at “Turn The Lights Back On” and “Better Off” as potential gateways into the record for the people out there.

Great riff at the start of “Rise Up” and a fantastic energy on display immediately in the brightness of Swill’s Alt-Rock vibes as everything snaps into place.  Chorus on this cut is HUGE and guaranteed to get the crowd chantin’ along with’em…the verses are right on the fringe of where the demands on the vocals meet the ability to hit’em, but as far as my ears can tell, they’re makin’ it there in the end.  It’s a fairly straight-forward tune about breaking through the confusion of life at its core…but once again, really skillfully played in the way that makes the difference.  “When the going gets weird, the weird turns pro” – I wouldn’t have this Hunter S. Thompson tattoo on my arm and proudly have patterned my life around being at least 10% of some kind of passable facsimile to the man’s work if I couldn’t recognize a quote like that when it appears.  You could look at “Rise Up” as being all about personal freedom and lettin’ your own freak flag fly, as they say…and I’d surmise you wouldn’t be wrong in doing so – it’s a rebellious tune at the heart of it all, and built with the inspiring energy you wanna hear in that scenario.  Not a doubt in my mind that people out there would dig on this track here in its recorded version, and in a live setting, there’s a great chance this is another Swill song that’ll shake the pictures right off the wall.

They’ve got such an impressive way of going about getting us interested.  “Strange Addiction” takes on more of a Blues Rock edge to it, kind of like what you’d imagine it would sound like if The Cars met The Black Crowes…maybe add in a bit of the Spin Doctors for the slight funk vibe that Swill takes on at times for good measure.  Really steady musicianship in this band that you can count on to deliver, every single time, no matter what kind of style they’re rockin’ with…Swill should be incredibly proud of the powerful sound they’ve created for themselves, and how professionally they put it on display in each song.  Don’t get me wrong – you can’t mask the attitude they bring to their lyricism, and people are gonna love that too – especially you mischief makers…but yeah…undeniably professional at this point in their career.  I love how they let their instrumentation get a real moment in the spotlight through the finale of “Strange Addiction” – these dudes can seriously PLAY, and they go on to secure a victory with the passion & fire they put into this cut.  They’ve got all the innuendo & subtlety of AC/DC or Green Jelly…but I have a feeling that the people out there are going to enjoy the devilish deviousness of Swill’s brand of Rock.  Because…like…let’s lay it out here…we’re talkin’ about FUCKIN’ here on this track, are we not Swill?  Is it all mere projection on MY end, and simply what I’m hearing in this song – or is that the real nitty gritty of it all would ya say?  I’m all about the cleverness that Swill possesses…don’t go getting it twisted, it takes a cunning mind to be this devious in the wide open and be able to have it fly right over the heads of half the people listening.  They win either way…you’ll dig it for the groovin’ Alt-Blues/Rock sound they’ve got goin’ on, or you’ll dig it for the more-than-meets-the-eye way that they write – and quite likely both…Swill knows how to tell a story in a way that’ll certainly…umm…catch your attention, let’s put it that way.  If you find yourself raising an eyebrow or two in listening to “Strange Addiction” and wondering whether or not they just said what you think they said – spoiler alert – they fucking DID yes.  Real bonus points for the furiously fired-up & inspired finale of this track…Swill becomes mammoth in size, scope, and scale as they attack the final minute or so completely instrumental and tear it right up.

So…let’s be clear…execution-wise, these guys do what they do very well – they’ve held their own at every opportunity along the way, and the continue to do so in the way they play “Can’t,” which is definitely the album’s most low-key tune energy-wise in the set-list to this point so far.  They will seek to ramp that up for the finale, which the surge forward they make around the 3:20 mark certainly accomplishes…but if I’m callin’ it like I hear it, “Can’t” revealed the most potential for Swill’s evolution in the future in my opinion.  If I’m comparing this song to what I’ve heard so far on this album, they’ve written circles around this tune and displayed much more depth in most of the rest of the cuts surrounding “Can’t” throughout the record.  For me, it’s a bit too much of a match – if you’re listening to the music and to the vocals, it feels like it’s noticeable that they’re following along the same path…that’s not necessarily a bad approach, or even something that everyone out there is gonna notice, or recognize as some kind of detrimental aspect…a pairing like that can be a really good thing sometimes.  I felt like “Can’t” was just shy of the magic it needed…and by the time we reach the finale, I’m not sure enough can be done to rescue this track from being more than a passable experience.  It’s hard to complain when you can hear a band like Swill never takes a moment off when it comes time to record and give it what they’ve got…but yeah…maybe it was the strength of the material or the pattern in the relationship between the music & vocals…maybe I’m not even 100% sure what it was – “Can’t” felt like it was okay to me.  I admire Swill for giving a different gear a shot – I think the vocals are actually quite spectacular when it comes right down to it…reminds me a lot of how you hear the hooks in King’s X come out in many ways…and there’s always some guitar work in every tune that’s well worth your time for tuning in.  What I really dig is the sparkle & shine & the distant melody at work around the 2:30 mark, right before they break into the rage of the ending…that’s honestly the part I would’ve kept goin.’

It’s like Devo’s havin’ a shred-fest on “Out Of Reach” – and yessir, I’m diggin’ this tasty treat for the ears.  Fantastic stuff happening here…in a way, it’s got a lot in common with stuff you’d find in Foo Fighters or even Queens when it comes right down to it…but like…infused with the sound of dudes that have a real extensive knowledge in the history of Rock from its roots on up.  Overall, it’s a brighter & more playfully punked-up design, hence the Devo reference at the start…but I’d bet that it’s got a widespread appeal to it.  As for the spoken-word esque moment in the middle…story-wise, it’s killer in terms of the details – stylistically, I’m not so sure it does all that much for’em if I’m being truthful…it’s the rest of this track that’s got Swill crushing it at 110%.  Precision drums in the mix for ya – “HOLY FUCK” as they say themselves – you can feel the electricity surging through this track as it builds with clever call & answer vocals that keep things moving quickly.  Everything about “Out Of Reach” sounds like it’d be a massively fun song for them to play live, and a huge hit with the crowd in front of the stage.  Swill has this uncanny way of taking a tale and twisting it in a completely different direction than you’d ever expect – and there’s really no finer example of that in action than what you’ll hear in the words of “Out Of Reach.”  At first, you might even think this is a love song…and heck, maybe it still IS…but it’s got a stalker’s soul at the core of its bizarre center…so if it IS a love song by your definition, you’re as strange as Swill is friend.  All I know is that every time “Out Of Reach” comes on, I’m inclined to get the volume cranked back up to my stereo’s full potential & find myself more than willing to piss off the neighbors for my own pleasure.

I feel like much of what I had to say about “Can’t” would apply to “Don’t Wanna Know” as well.  Not a bad tune, just not my favorite is all…that matching aspect of the relationship in the patterns between the music & the microphone are just a bit too close at times for me personally, but that doesn’t mean it might not hit the spot for you.  Execution, as always, remains intact…quality cuts all around when it comes to what Swill creates, and whenever that’s the case, it’s really just about your own personal taste as to what separates one track from another on your playlist.  What I really love is the steady precision beat and weight in the drum hits here…that’s straight-up spectacular technique, and you can hear it without question.  “Don’t Wanna Know” puts some new ideas into the lineup…the vocals have a real grip on how to work the main hooks effectively…it’s a real tough tune in the mid-tempo realm for Swill this particular cut…and I’d assume that this track is gonna have to fight that much harder for attention.  They’ve still got some space to grow on the slower side of their catalog, but there ain’t no shame in that – they’d rock most bands into oblivion when they’re at their most intense, and they’ve got the chops required to do whatever they choose…I maintain every band/artist should want somewhere to go next.

Did they sell their souls to rock & roll?  There’s a good chance they just might have, based on the tale you’ll hear woven throughout “The Contract.”  Lyrically whip-smart, it’s definitely another highlight for the clever way they tackle the words…and let’s be real here – this is certainly Swill at both ends of the spectrum.  You’ll go from beastly Metal vibes to a lighter style of Rock not all too far removed from something somewhere in the middle of Weezer and Better Than Ezra…which is quite the gamut to run over the course of one song.  Metal and religion tend to go hand-in-hand when it comes to sound & theme…it’s something you’ll find out there in all kinds of ways…in this particular, we’re preaching more towards the church of celebrity and pulling back the curtain on what the Wizard of Oz is really up to back there.  Overall, Swill’s rockin’ with a concept that’s one of my favorites to be truthful – they’re essentially taking on something similar to what Tom Petty’s The Last DJ was all about…and it’s still every bit as relevant of a subject now as it was back then, and likely always will be when it comes to the arts.  We’re all tempted to sign on that dotted line…the promise of fame & fortune, riches & adoration from people all across the world, our names in the marquee…it’s tough to resist and there’s no doubt about that.  As “The Contract” will remind ya though…no deal comes without a price, and if you’re not really reading the fine print, you’re bound to take it just as hard in the ass as that dude in “Strange Addiction.”

“Angels Cry,” and singers for Swill eat gravel for breakfast, apparently.  I very much DIG the extra grit in the vocals of this final cut, yes indeed…that’s the kind of sound that gets noticed y’all, so pay attention.  No matter the results of any song, whether it’s resonated with me, or with you out there – you’ve gotta give it up for the amount of things going RIGHT for Swill in terms of their focus, passion, and execution – they put it all into every performance, and as a result, you’ll likely be strapped in happily for this whole ride.  “Angels Cry” damn near heads into Danzig territory for the bold tones you’ll hear booming from the mic on this cut…and thankfully, stylistically, this song’s nothing like that at all…otherwise I’d be out, and likely running to my archives for audible relief.  Like I told ya, we all have our favorites…Danzig just ain’t one of mine – though as with all legends, I highly respect his contributions and the fact he’s got a recognizable signature style that no one could confuse for anyone else.  Swill dips a toe into that pool without taking a full swim, and that’s probably the wisest move…no one wants to be a carbon copy, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with borrowing an influence and building on it.  Structurally & sound-wise, the rest of this tune is all far removed from anything Danzig really…it’s just that grit & beefy epic sound of the vocals in this track that’ll make that comparison hold any water.  Smart guitars, steady musicianship, rock-star personality & charisma on the mic, and as clever as ever in their lyricism – Swill finishes this new record with stoic confidence and gripping sound…”Angels Cry” is a wildly satisfying ending to what’s been an album filled with impressive material, performed by players that are clearly loving every moment they’ve got to rock together & are more than willing to pass that feeling onto us.

Find out more about Swill from the official pages below!

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/BuffaloNYSwill

Spotify:  https://open.spotify.com/artist/675UZETDKKSzwhTgluuojS

Apple Music:  https://music.apple.com/ca/artist/swill/118305659

Soundcloud:  https://soundcloud.com/swillbandbuffalo

ReverbNation:  https://www.reverbnation.com/swill

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