After more than a quarter century as a band, there’s really only one thing you can count on being the same with each new record from the Swingin’ Utters, and that is that they’re going to make it a little different. “From the first record, I wanted to mix it up as much as we could,” says co-founder Darius Koski. “Playing with different genres and instrumentation makes it more interesting. As long as it’s a cohesive record, it works for us.” That dedication to not replicating any standard “C sound” has resulted in what may be their most cohesive (and paradoxically, one of their most diverse) records yet: the latest album “Fistful of Hollow”, which explores the Utters’ interests in far afield sounds including Britpop, mod, Celtic, country, folk, and—of course—a solid foundation of West Coast punk rock.
“‘Fistful of Hollow’ is one of my favorite Darius [Koski, guitarist/vocalist] songs,” says vocalist Johnny Bonnel. “It ranks up there with ‘From The Observatory,’ ‘My Glass House,’ ‘Teenage Genocide’ and ‘Beached Sailor.’ He continues to influence me in my song-writing and grumpy drunkenness.”
As with just about every Swingin’ Utters record, there’s a lot going on across the album’s 15 tracks, as with much of the band’s output, the record as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The album may lack the traditional lead single but there’s consistent quality throughout, even as the tracks vary stylistically, and that makes for an album that holds the listener’s attention from start to finish.
From a punk standpoint, tracks like “We Are Your Garbage” and “Tonight’s Moons” hit all the classic notes, and also bring a playfulness that first started to rear its head on Poorly Formed. The “yeah, yeah, yeah” and “no, no, no” refrains on “Tonight’s Moons” are a fine example of this stylistic twist. As usual, the Swingin’ Utters also bring in the folk and Americana elements on tracks like “Napalm South” and album closer “End of the Weak.” The former rocks a little harder than the latter and brings in some blues elements that are new to the band’s sound, while the latter sounds more like the classic folk-tinged ballads that the band has closed many a previous album with.
The Swingin’ Utters have delivered a diverse record that shows a band that’s very comfortable doing what it does, seamlessly moving between styles in a way that showcases a rare level of musicianship and musical know-how. It never feels forced, the movement between genres natural. If that feeling is what makes a record successful, consider Fistful of Hollow a success. In the end the Swingin’ Utters solidify the next evolution of their sound and show that growth is still possible for a band barreling toward the 30-year mark.