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Dead Flowers, Bottles, Bluegrass, and Bones

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Album Review

Fans needn't worry — the title is a bit of a misnomer; the band hasn't gone country and there's no bluegrass in sight, just 17 heavy-hitting hardcore slammers, so take a deep breath and dive straight in. The brew is still heady, a stomping mix of rabid punk and pub-crunching singalongs — the ultimate party mix with a kick. There are a few changes within, though: bassist Spike now adds his voice to the boiling brew, and again, this should provoke no fears that the Utters have suddenly turned all pop harmonious, although if "Glad" was less storming, Blink-182 would be happy to nick it, with its "clichés sung by stars" chorus and all.

The title track is a very modern love song where old school meets new in a brewery, "All That I Can Give" wanders into a western and evokes nihilism on the prairie, while "Don't Ask Why" returns to the city to give the tough new breed "so content with being average" a good kicking. And who else but the Utters could believably utter: "My accordion is shining in the light of the moon from the sky," within a tear-stained, boozy, heartaching moan. But heartache hangs heavy over Dead Flowers, Bottles, Bluegrass, and Bones, from the heartbreakingly lovely intro which plays tribute to the Who on "Letters to Yourself," through the VD blues of "Heaven at Seventeen," and across the emotional maelstrom of "My Closed Mind." And still the Utters are not done, for on "Poor Me" they explain their inability to rest on their laurels and their need for the lights and glory. Their wit remains as sharp as ever, and if anything is even more finely honed, puncturing all in its path — the emotions raw, but their pens refined. And as for the music, across 35 minutes the group gives it their all: searing headbangers, anthemic punk rockers, raucous rockers, more delicate acoustic numbers, and everything in between. Buy it for the music but keep it for the insights; Dead Flowers swings like a scythe, the best yet from the band.


Formed: 1987 in San Francisco, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

One of the more traditional-sounding of California's punk revival bands, Swingin' Utters formed in the late '80s around a first-name-only lineup of vocalist Johnny, guitarists Max and Darius, bassist Kevin, and drummer Greg. Originally based in Santa Cruz, these street punks later moved to San Francisco and recorded for several different labels, including Side One, IFA Records, and New Red Archives. The group first released 1992's Scared as Johnny Peebucks & the Swingin' Utters, but things really...
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Dead Flowers, Bottles, Bluegrass, and Bones, Swingin' Utters
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