Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Good Ship Rediscovery: Swell Maps - Jane From Occupied Europe

We all forget about the older stuff from time to time, in our quest to stay up to speed with the latest and greatest. But one should always respect their elders. So don’t forget about them, y’hear?

I don’t know about y’all, but sometimes I come across a record, or a band, that makes me ask myself how the heck I managed to miss them for so long. I had this sensation when my former roommate, Chelsea (otherwise known as she whose record collection is even bigger and more amazing than mine), introduced me to Swell Maps and the brilliant record Jane From Occupied Europe. To be fair, that kinda happened a lot when we lived in our Richmondian loft, but Swell Maps left quite an impression on me. There’s so much to love about this record, I don’t even know where to start. But I’ll try.


I suppose I could love it because, well, it’s fucking loud. I haven’t had to try this myself, but if, say, you wanted to piss off your annoying neighbor, Jane From Occupied Europe might do you proud, played with excessive levels of volume. It’s one heck of a snarling, bratty, middle-finger in the face little record. Which, assuredly, is quite a plus. Delving deeper into the reasons I adore this LP, there are the assorted elements within this noisiness. At times, Swell Maps sound more than a little like the Mark E. Smith-led misfits of The Fall. At others, they sound like the deranged cousins of darkly chirpy Glaswegian legends Orange Juice, or the saucy cheek of The Nectarine No. 9. Parts of their contemporaries flare across the album like sunspots, but at the end of the line it's all the genius of Swell Maps. Flat, monotonously bored vocals and surges of knife-sharp guitars marry together under a decidedly lo-fi production, resulting in quite an appealing mess.
This, friends, this is a band that Does. Not. Fuck. Around. This record sounds like they would come, see, conquer, pillage, and drunkenly piss on the embers of your burning village.

Fuck-off indifference with bite courses through the songs on Jane From Occupied Europe, which is yet another plus. Attitude like this is rare, especially when, as it seems with Swell Maps, it’s for real. It’s all required listening, but I’ve got a few special favorites. “Collision With a Frogman” is a treasure, taking Joy Division’s guitars a few steps further in the direction of simplicity and darkness and fisticuffs. It’s three and a half minutes of instrumental chaos, and I fucking love it. “Border Country” is angular, aggressive, and agitated as all get out, though it still retains that air of being totally and utterly bored. And “Blenheim Shots” is a barrage of bigness, big drums, big bass, and big guitar that just keeps searing its way into your skull, in the best way possible of course.


I already love this record to pieces, and yet I still wonder why I don’t listen to it more than I already do. Odds are, it's inspired more than a few bands in your collection. If you’re a fan of all things noisy, strident, and more than a little hostile, Jane From Occupied Europe probably needs to make its way into your record collection.


m4a: Collision With a Frogman (Swell Maps from Jane From Occupied Europe)

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