Swearin’ frontwoman Allison Crutchfield hailed her band’s first new record in five years, Fall into the Sun, as the “adult Swearin’ album.” Indeed, the Philadelphia-based punksters have matured since 2013’s Surfing Strange; their lyrics sharper, riffs cleaner and ideas fresher. Following Crutchfield’s split from Swearin’ guitarist/vocalist Kyle Gilbride in 2015, the band dispersed and she released her excellent, synth-laden solo LP Tourist in This Town. A reunion seemed unlikely. Then, late last year, they teamed up once again to support a string of Superchunk shows and signed to that band’s label, Merge, signaling new music to come. Their comeback album sees the foursome stronger than ever, using their reconciliation as both material and motivation to refine their already-sharp, scrappy sound.
The hiatus did nothing to deter them from doing what they do best: making dry, toe-tapping punk, though Fall into the Sun sees the group working in a much clearer headspace. The album’s 33 minutes are just the right amount of time, and Swearin’ are careful not to let fuzz abound as on their last effort, 2013’s Surfing Strange. “Grow into a Ghost” is one of the longer tracks at just under 3:15, and it’s the kind of boiling, righteous lean-in representation of post-punk’s healthy glow. From Idles to Omni to Parquet Courts to Iceage, post-punk is one of the brightest sectors of indie rock in 2018, and Swearin’ can now rightfully re-assume their position as monarchs of the genre.
Crutchfield and Gilbride swap front-vocal duties several times on Fall into the Sun, making for a nice change-up. Crutchfield heads up the shreddy, quick-paced singles, “Grow into a Ghost” and “Untitled (LA),” while Gilbride commands the riffy, bass-heavy “Dogpile” and the looser, metal-adjacent “Stabilize.” It’s on that last track where Gilbride truly assumes his roles as a bandleader and one-of-a-kind vocalist. His voice is scratchy—it sounds strained, but pleasantly so—and the lyrics are so wry and oblique they’d make Stephen Malkmus proud. “Over dunes watching echoes she sounds,” he sings. “Hungry for loneliness but the thirst stays; unsated, unbound.” Rooted in mayhem, “Stabilize” is anything but steady. Yet, it takes on many lifeforms as the song progresses, from cruising rock tune to near-hardcore rager, giving it a solid framework. Another Gilbride-led number, “Steady,” is equally enjoyable rock ‘n’ roll complete with groovy drums and tight electric guitar.
Save for the quiet penultimate track “Anyway,” which Crutchfield leads beautifully, Fall into the Sun is searing. It’s a fighting display of the forceful-yet-contemplative sound Swearin’ is known for, while it also ranges from driving rock à la Japandroids or Cloud Nothings to swinging, sludgy southern blues-rock (i.e. the vocal twang in “Future Hell”). Though Swearin’ are emotionally fully-grown on Fall into the Sun, there’s still ample youthful energy, making it one of the brightest, ruddiest albums you’ll hear this year.