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The Swellers - Ups and Downsizing (Cover Artwork)

The Swellers

The Swellers: Ups and DownsizingUps and Downsizing (2009)
Fueled By Ramen Records

Reviewer Rating: 4.5
User Rating:


Contributed by: BryneBryne
(others by this writer | submit your own)

When the Swellers were scooped up by uber-indie Fueled by Ramen earlier this year, trepidation on the part of their fans immediately followed. Nevermind the fact that Ups and Downsizing was completely recorded by the band themselves while they were without a label, or that even the band's hardest, f.
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When the Swellers were scooped up by uber-indie Fueled by Ramen earlier this year, trepidation on the part of their fans immediately followed. Nevermind the fact that Ups and Downsizing was completely recorded by the band themselves while they were without a label, or that even the band's hardest, fastest tracks have always possessed an underlying pop sensibility that if executed in a slightly different fashion, could win over scores of new admirers and fit in nicely alongside now-labelmates such as Paramore. Those cynics with visions of neon colors, repetitive dance beats and Zelda haircuts swimming in their heads will all be undeniably disappointed in the 'new' direction of the Swellers (or perhaps not, if they give this record a fighting chance) as Ups and Downsizing is a logical progression from 2007's My Everest and, without a doubt, the best thing FBR has released since the days when the Stereo, Jimmy Eat World and the Impossibles dominated the label's landscape. The fact is, the Swellers are traveling the same poppy punk road road they always have; they're just doing it in a much nicer car.

Never one to deny their influences, those of the Swellers shine more brightly than ever on Ups and Downsizing. Opener "2009" is quite possibly the best amalgamation of said influences here (which obviously makes it a solid choice for an opening track); the chunky heaviness of '90s alternative in the choruses paired with the melodic, quick composition in the verses make for an enjoyable listen. This combination is expanded upon exponentially in the next track and lead single, "Fire Away," a song that's built on alarmingly dynamic verses and a driving, mid-tempo chorus, all carried by the ever-improving vocals of Nick Diener. The band's uncanny knack for melody and infectious vocal harmonies are on display on tracks like "Feet First" and "Watch It Go."

Another major influence on the Swellers that becomes known on Ups and Downsizing is Piebald, and namely that band's 2002 full-length We Are the Only Friends We Have. The connection between that record (vastly underrated, mind you) and the bouncy riffing of "Sleeper" and the feedback-laden acoustic chorus of "Do You Feel Better Yet?" is undeniable; both songs have the same melodic, yet slightly off-kilter feel that gave Piebald their distinct musical identity.

Those clamoring for epically fast shredding Ă¡ la "The Flood" may be slightly disappointed by the lack of it here, but Ups and Downsizing still packs plenty of pure punk rock punch in the positively ferocious "The Iron," as well as album closer "Dirt" (and to a lesser extent, "2009" and "Welcome Back Riders"). It's all in the name of diversity, friends, and those who panned My Everest as one-dimensional -- though that sole dimension was pretty awesome -- ought to at least applaud the Swellers for incorporating different tempos into not just the album as a whole, but within stand-alone songs as well. The band's technical proficiency is still here, but it's less flashy and more subtly solid than it ever has been, which makes these songs sound far more timeless than anything in their back catalogue.

The largest changeup here is the near six-minute "Stars", with the two-thirds of the song taking the shape of a heartfelt acoustic ballad, while the final act, begun by Diener passionately yelling "This one's for you!", is a musically and emotionally huge refrain that demands to be heard through a quality pair of headphones. The song doesn't feel nearly as long as it is, which is a testament both to the band's songwriting chops and to its placement in the track listing, serving as a perfect predecessor to the aforementioned closer, "Dirt."

With Ups and Downsizing, the Swellers have crafted a record with wide-ranging appeal and plenty of staying power. These guys have worked their asses off to reach this point and the stars are beginning to align for them. One of the best records of 2009, no doubt.

 

 
People who liked this also liked:
The Flatliners - CavalcadeThe Gaslight Anthem - The '59 SoundThe Swellers - Good for MeThe Lawrence Arms - Oh! Calcutta!The Menzingers - Chamberlain WaitsDescendents - Milo Goes To CollegePolar Bear Club - Sometimes Things Just DisappearBanner Pilot - CollapserDear Landlord - Dream HomesTeenage Bottlerocket - They Came from the Shadows

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
Kosta011 (March 22, 2012)

good album. stars is a bit of a drag along but it goes out with a bang.

kylewagoner (August 12, 2010)

Fire Away blows my balls off.

ak3punk (November 27, 2009)

Great album. I don't dig the acoustic track, but the rest is fantastic. It's going to be really tough, I have to somehow fit this and the new Dear Landlord into an already crowded top 10 list. Maybe my year end list this year will be a top 15, too many good "must haves" this year.

blackhawk32 (November 5, 2009)

wow "2009" is such a rockin' song. Love this album. "Stars" is also a great semi-acoustic song.

griffigr (November 2, 2009)

I just picked up this record and I must say that it does have a fair amount of replay value. To me, this record sounds like a hybrid of Useless ID's "Redemption" and Much the Same's "Survive," with a touch of Weezer. All in all, a very good effort from one of Michigan's best punk rock bands.

brokenrecord (October 31, 2009)

this IS some of the best pop-punk going on right now.

hashbrowns (October 14, 2009)

i dig it. good production, doesn't sound overproduced to me. just utilized.

Likeacolt45 (October 7, 2009)

The first question I ask when people claim that an album is "overproduced" is 'Can the band pull it off live?' If the answer is yes, then the claim is false. And that is the case with the Swellers. That drumming and shredding and vocal harmonizing... They hit it all spot on.

Anyway, love this album. So glad to see they're finally getting the recognition they deserve.

shitsfucked (October 3, 2009)

This is an awesome album. I hate that they are touring w/ paramore though.

onegirlarmy (October 2, 2009)

Wow, is it 1999 again? I didn't know people still dug overproduced boring pop punk.

Isn't this all you listen to?

mattramone (October 2, 2009)

Wow, is it 1999 again? I didn't know people still dug overproduced boring pop punk.

telegraphrocks (October 1, 2009)

EDIT: Slightly above mediocre.

(revised score)

telegraphrocks (October 1, 2009)

Album cover is awesome... the music within is pretty mediocre.

SKAtepunk (October 1, 2009)

Its so amazing. i love this band and record.

scruffy (October 1, 2009)

Albums the best thing I've heard from them for sure! It's much better than I thought it'd be from the preview stuff, and I even liked the preview stuff.

However, I have to point out that, after JEW and the Impossibles, FBR put out amazing stuff by Blueline Medic, As Friends Rust and a few more. I still can't let go of how fucking awesome this label was until just a few short years ago.

ROD (October 1, 2009)

This review is fucking Terrible! 11 fucking stars for Mark Michalik who recorded the record and is the best in the Biz....Mark deserves the credit he is due for engineering a great record.

joshtalo (September 30, 2009)

I love this album. So awesome. Also, these dudes have a Swellers cover up.

http://www.myspace.com/shelbyvillepa

onegirlarmy (September 30, 2009)

So fucking tired of hearing about this band.
Every single band ever were playing this sound 10 years ago and no one cared - so why should I care now that these guys do it just as sub-par as anything put out back then?

Back then, people were talking about Pennybridge Pioneers being a really bad move for Millencolin - yet people were hyping this guy as sounding like that a year or two ago.

You can listen to this all you want to - I'll stick with the more genuine 90's stuff when I want this type of music. I still havn't explored that fully.


Finding your logic a tiny bit flawed. Who's to say the music isn't genuine just because it isn't from the 90's?

damnitsderek (September 30, 2009)

Diggin' it.

Grue (September 30, 2009)

Didn't like My Everest, probably wouldn't like this either.

givemeamuseumandillfillit (September 30, 2009)

So fucking tired of hearing about this band.
Every single band ever were playing this sound 10 years ago and no one cared - so why should I care now that these guys do it just as sub-par as anything put out back then?

Back then, people were talking about Pennybridge Pioneers being a really bad move for Millencolin - yet people were hyping this guy as sounding like that a year or two ago.

You can listen to this all you want to - I'll stick with the more genuine 90's stuff when I want this type of music. I still havn't explored that fully.

deadxlast (September 30, 2009)

Great record, obviously. The Swellers are my favorite active band right now. The dudes are the coolest people I have ever met in my life.

Dante3000 (September 30, 2009)

Yeah, NUFAN does not do it better, at least not anymore. I can't imagine the anytime minutes they must have used to phone in their last couple of albums.
-Dante

ddb43 (September 30, 2009)

Not bad, but NUFAN did & does it better. I liked their last album more.

punker001 (September 30, 2009)

Can't wait to get this, love this band! Album of the year tho??? it'll have to beat the bastard suns which won't be easy!

nick_s (September 30, 2009)

I'd only heard a few tracks before getting the album, but this is great, a really strong album. Decent review too!

MN_DrNick (September 30, 2009)

There's something about these guys and their music that makes me feel very much younger (my high school skate board punk days) but instead of not growing away from these guys like some many skate punk style bands, these guys stick around. This is by far their best recorded material. Can't wait for the next album!

TheMarc (September 29, 2009)

Really good album, but I'm not gonna lie, I was hoping for more Wilhelm Scream, less Foo Fighters.

thatsyouth (September 29, 2009)

I've said most of this stuff on threads but I'll say it here anyway. I instantly loved this and I completelywith the Piebald comparison. The do a good job of giving each song it's own identity. The Iron sounds like a song that could have gone on Ruiner by A Wilhelm Scream. I really don't think there's that much of a lack in slow songs. My Everest wasn't all that much faster than this. Dirt is the By A Thread/Skoots of the album. I could probably go on and on. Great album. Possibly my album of the year. I remember when I was 16 and thought Jono was the coolest guy in the world cause he was 17 and in a kick ass band. Glad these guys have gotten as successfull as they have.

MrStylson (September 29, 2009)

Album of the year for me, and 2009 has been a strong year in my books. Nick's vocals on this are better than they've ever been. Mark's production is excellent, and the song writing is perfect.

This is everything great about pop punk.

hobbzoid (September 29, 2009)

way too emo.

danperrone (September 29, 2009)

i don't really get it. it's very plain.

splendidtune (September 29, 2009)

album of the fucking year right here.

HankScorpio (September 29, 2009)

Nowhere near as good as My Everest. It's not bad, but the new style is not really my thing.

"Zelda haircuts" sound so much cooler than they really are.

thepopeofchili-town (September 29, 2009)

This review has made me want to listen to this record and I haven't liked anything I've heard from them previously. I'll check out the myspace stream.

pricey123 (September 29, 2009)

it doesnt do anything for me unfortunately

shitsfucked (September 29, 2009)

One of the best most honest reviews of all time, Piebald rules too.

mikexdude (September 29, 2009)

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the production makes this band sound like something they shouldn't be. It emphasizes the heaviness in the completely wrong way. Took me a while to get into it, but I think this is a pretty great record. A 9? Bryne, you're out of your mynd. ; )

ashtraymonument (September 29, 2009)

still don't get the love for this band, but eh. whatever.

skeetopunk01 (September 29, 2009)

Paramore should be opening for this band!

MarkM (September 29, 2009)

They technically didn't record this themselves. They didn't have a label when they were recording it though.

onegirlarmy (September 29, 2009)

Everything Bryne said is spot fucking on. Awesome record. I wish these guys all the best, they deserve it all.

inagreendase (September 29, 2009)

Such a step up. Great record.

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