The Swellers - Good for Me (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Swellers

Good for Me (2011)

Fueled by Ramen

It's been a mere 21 months since the Swellers dropped Ups and Downsizing, an album which captured a band finding their voice in spite of rampant lineup changes and what was, at the time, label uncertainty (the group recorded the album on their own, without any sort of backing; Fueled by Ramen became involved after the fact). It was a sprawling effort, that in which the Swellers effectively progressed their sound while still paying homage to their influences, influences that were far more prevalent (and narrower, one might argue) in their earlier material. There were a handful of legitimately great songs on that record despite all the extenuating circumstances surrounding its conception, and that speaks to the talent of brothers Nick and Jonathan Diener, the driving creative force behind the Swellers who are, lest we forget, still extremely young (Nick is 24; Jono is 22).

Now, less than two years later, we have Good for Me, the Swellers' second FbR release riding on the heels of what's arguably the most stable period of the band's existence. The stability shows. These 10 songs are tight, focused and altogether enjoyable slabs of melodic punk that, while streamlined quite a bit from the band's earlier work, are just so well conceived that it's hard to see it as a regression.

It's clear that the Swellers are aiming to write songs with huge hooks and catchy choruses that will translate well in a live setting. Then again, it's more clear than it may have been on Ups and Downsizing, anyway. Songs like "Runaways", "Inside My Head" and "The Best I Ever Had" don't punch so much as they resonate, and what they lack in technical flashes is easily compensated by their sheer catchiness. A similar career trajectory has been taken by No Use for a Name, a band whose sound became more melodic as the years wore on, and is an obvious influence on Good for Me; in fact, some tracks on the album ("Parkview", "Nothing More to Me") possess the same sort of driving sound that NUfaN used on their mostly enjoyable, unfairly maligned 1999 full-length More Betterness.

As far as new wrinkles go, the Swellers bust out a few on Good for Me with relative success. The downtuned grunge of "On the Line"–and to a lesser extent, "Prime Meridian"–is a welcome departure in which the band incorporate another strong influence (Foo Fighters, or more directly, The Colour and the Shape) while maintaining their own identity in the process. The crunchy, soaring guitar work found in closer "Warming Up" is straight out of the early Weezer playbook, but again, it's executed with enough aplomb to feel like an homage as opposed to a ripoff.

If Ups and Downsizing was the record that put the Swellers on the cusp, Good for Me will in all likelihood be the band's breakout release. The lineup is stable, the songs are there, and it would seem there's nowhere to go but up for the group.