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Too Many Days Without Thinking

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Album Review

You've heard of "the difficult second album?" San Francisco's Swell would say that's better applied to a fourth LP, as the making of their's took on Homeric difficulties. It began, self-produced, in a homemade studio in Los Angeles (scrapped); the second try came in Hollywood (mostly scrapped). After fleeing back to San Fran, two separate producers failed on third and fourth attempts, before Swell moseyed to New York, where they finally found acceptable results with Kurt Ralske (Mr. Ultra Vivid Scene), the man behind the desk for Lotion, the Ropers, and others. Then, after two years of the sort of home-hopping usually familiar only to fugitives, their label, American, declined to release it! If Bruno Magli footprints had been found around the murdered body of label president Rick Rubin, we'd know who'd been wearing those "ugly ass" shoes this time. But the non-violent Swell took their hard-won wares to Beggars instead. And now that Odysseus is finally home, was it worth it? The production, unfortunately, sounds like the same old gated, compressed, no-breath alterna-sound that even the Smashing Pumpkins are starting to abandon. Where's the warmth? But with more plays, a determined, laconic moodiness sets in, not quite the West Coast melancholy of the best of Idaho, American Music Club, Mazzy Star, and Red House Painters but, nevertheless, there's an inviting essence of brood in the basslines, and in David Freel's just-woke-up, weary, and wary voice. But Swell is louder, more annoyed, twisting the frame inside the band's black cloud. Songs such as "(I Know) the Trip" recall Medicine and the darker New Zealand bands (see Melt by Straitjacket Fits). With real life in the mix, the sympathetically titled Too Many Days Without Thinking could have been as ambitiously epic as its making; they come close.


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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