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Album Review

Originally released in 1990 on their own Psycho-Specific label, Swell's eponymous debut was re-released in 2003 through Badman Recording Co., a reputable indie label based in the band's home city of San Francisco. Looking back on this material — now remastered and repackaged — it's interesting to see how the trippy stoner shuffle of tracks like "Get High" and "Wooden Hippie Nice" stood out from the Bay Area's other eclectic outfits of the time, like Red House Painters and American Music Club. Steered by guitarist/vocalist David Freel, Swell — essentially a duo that also included drummer Sean Kirkpatrick at the time of this recording — showed tremendous promise on infectious, muscular tracks like "Come Tommorrow" and "Stop." If the former's shoegazing guitar sound and the latter's innovative, echoed dynamics weren't enough, the group's reliance on atmospherics on the groove-steeped "Love You All" and the apprehensive, pulsing "A Town" hint at the direction Swell's next disc, 1992's ...Well?, would take. Bonus tracks include alternate versions of "Stop" and "Ready," which are less engaging than the original takes but still make interesting comparison tools. And with the second appendage, the original version's indecipherable lyrics are finally made clear. Simply put, this is a superb debut album and a great starting point for music fans looking to discover the roots of 1990s independent and alternative music. ~ John D. Luerssen, Rovi


Formed: 1989

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

Alternating influences from neo-psychedelia, noise pop, and Ennio Morricone film scores, Swell formed in San Francisco in 1989 when vocalist/guitarist David Freel and drummer Sean Kirkpatrick decided to record an album. Enlisting second guitarist John Dettman and bassist Monte Vallier, the band recorded a self-titled debut album and released it on their own Psycho Specific label in April 1990. After playing live for the first time in August -- a support slot for Mazzy Star at San Francisco's I-Beam...
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Swell, Swell
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