Swingin’ Utters - Peace and Love (Cover Artwork)

Swingin’ Utters

Peace and Love (2018)

Fat Wreck Chords

Formed over 30 years ago, Bay Area street punk stalwarts Swingin’ Utters recently dropped their ninth overall full length, and fourth since ending a 7 year hiatus in 2010. Heroes of the street punk scene for decades, Peace and Love will only extend the staying power of the band, cited as a key influence on acts from Dropkick Murphys to Teenage Bottlerocket.

While lead vocalist Johnny Peebucks is the only original member remaining, his vision for the band as an old-school street punk band who aren’t afraid to change things up aurally has remained consistent. New hires Tony Teixeira on bass and Luke Ray on drums, who are no newbies to the scene, fit in perfectly here.

The prowess of the new rhythm section is showcased right out of the gate. On opener “Undertaker, Undertake”, the bass stands out in front, wiggling fluidly, while the drums snap out some complex fills and rolls, remaining (perhaps a little too far) pushed back in the mix. They provide a great backbone for the classicist two minute call-and-response anthem.

The guys don’t wait long to throw some curveballs. “Sirens” and “Louise and Her Spider” follow with an interesting and very effective blend of shoegaze and surf rock. “E.C.T.” is basically an updated sequel to the Ramones’ “Gimme Shock Treatment”, right down to the composition structure and hand claps. It’s a hearty tribute, to be sure, but one can’t help but take a step back and ponder if it might be too derivative.

Political and socially conscious songs have always been a key part of the Swingin’ Utters’ repertoire, albeit understated at times. But not on Peace and Love. There are no punches pulled on pissed off ragers like “Deranged” and “Human Potential”. The frustration comes to a head on “Yes I Hope He Dies”, a FEAR-inspired hate song towards you-know-who.

Emotion is something else the band has never shied away from. “Demons of Springtime” brings back the surf sound from earlier in the record, but over all the jangly sunniness is a story of coping with depression. “Drinkist” may come across as a typical punk rock ode to imbibing, but it’s an age-appropriate tale of the consequences of all that fun, and how at middle age, it’s probably not actually all that fun anymore. The album closes with “H.L.S.”, a mostly acoustic tribute to the late Heiko Schrepel, sung by his former One Man Army bandmate, guitarist Jack Dalrymple. Jack’s subtle voice trembles with pain for the first two minutes, and his bandmates join in not to take over, but add just enough emphasis to end the track with as much positivity as appropriate.

While pushing out four full lengths in eight years may make a lesser band tired or repetitive, on Peace and Love the Swingin’ Utters continue to push their artistic envelope. As well-rounded as punk albums come, this is one of the best releases of the year.