Ups and Downsizing
Michigan punk outfit The Swellers are recent signees to pop-rock powerhouse Fueled by Ramen, a label that has become synonymous to translating underground appeal to commercial success.
The Swellers however are not likely to achieve the same levels of success as FBR luminaries such as Panic! At The Disco, Paramore or Gym Class Heroes. This isn’t a bad thing, especially for a band who is clearly aiming to put a bit of punk back in pop-punk.
Ups and Downsizing starts off well enough, the powerful and urgent 2009 beautifully segues into Fire Away but this one-two combo unfortunately only illustrate what this album could have been. 2009 is an ode to moving on, simple but powerful lyrics: “Let’s hope your resolution’s made/Happy new year, you’re dead to me” carry the song on a wave of dynamic guitars and some fast-paced drum work. Yet after this the album slips a bit. The urgency seems to dwindle away as the songs become more and more identikit. Front-man Nick Diener’s tremendous voice does its best to put passion into some slightly mediocre lyrics, but aside from his distinctive cries there is little to distinguish The Swellers from many other pop-punk bands currently plying their trade.
Ups and Downsizing isn’t a bad album at all, but it is a disappointing album. It is clear that The Swellers have the potential to be major players in their scene, and that their brand of pop-punk has more to it than neon-clothing and MySpace plays, but this isn’t the album that will convince people of that. Songs like The Iron, which draws comparisons with Set Your Goals are winners, but the filler, on tracks such as Feet First and Watch It Go occur to frequently for this to be anything more than a “nearly” album. The frankly awful obligatory slow song Stars, results in this album losing a whole mark in its score.
Don’t write The Swellers off yet, but don’t rush out and buy this album either. You will only be disappointed.