by Mark Anthony Brennan
Release Date: May 6th, 2014
Label: Nettwerk Music Group
There are certain bands around today that sound as if the last four decades never happened, like we went straight from 1972 to 2014 overnight. It’s not always a good thing – there are far too many blues-rock outfits that bore the pants off us with offerings about as fresh as last week’s egg foo young. Then again there’s the likes of Current Swell, whose music never sounds trite or dated, despite the fact that they’ve distilled out forty years of bad influences. They show no intention of changing their tune on ‘Ulysses‘, the band’s fifth studio album. Each track sparkles with originality, but they remain rooted in that late ’60’s/early 70’s folk/rock/blues groove.
The first single from the album is “Rollin'”, a frantic southern boogie sizzler, featuring some nifty slide guitar and harmonica by lead men Scott Stanton and David Lang. It’ll make your toes tap and it’ll make you smile. But if you expect the rest of the album to keep up this pace then you’re in for a surprise because the balance of the tracks are more mid-tempo. Not that they aren’t lively, and they certainly don’t disappoint. Current Swell may hang their hats in the coat-room of west coast indie rock, but they don’t allow themselves to be walled in – the boys wander wherever they feel. Classic rock, reggae, blues, and even Kinks-style balladry all factor into the overall sound that is ‘Ulysses‘. It’s this eclecticism that keeps their music interesting. In truth Current Swell are traditionalists, but their willingness to embrace a variety of styles ensures that they avoid any accusations of “sameness”.
‘Ulysses‘ is a solid outing, showcasing the strong songwriting of Stanton/Lang and the superior musicianship of a tight four-piece. Other than “Rollin'”, highlights include “Keys to the Kingdom”, which starts off as a sort of hymn (think Fleet Foxes) but quickly settles down into a near-funk rock rhythm featuring nice vocal harmonies and some reverberating guitar work that gives it just a hint of psychedelia. But the boys really deliver the goods on this record as there is nary a dull note and definitely no filler.
In one sense it’s surprising that the band knocked this album out in just 20 days. All of the songs are rich and fully-formed, leaving no impression that they were in any way rushed. Then again the music is so organic that you get the sense that there was no need to force it out, that it just revealed itself naturally.
Current Swell continues to solidify its position as one of western Canada’s premier indie acts. However, don’t expect them to blaze an innovative trail into the heart of the 21st century. After all, they are not the Arcade Fire and they don’t try to be. Current Swell aren’t really a band of the new millennium, they just happen to live here.