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Everybody Wants to Know

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Album Review

The sixth album by Swell is actually a solo effort by longtime bandleader David Freel, who claims to enjoy playing with a band onstage but prefers recording alone in the studio. (He's joined on just over half of these songs by drummer Rey Washam.) The resulting sound is strange, moody guitar pop with hooks that take you by surprise because the music doesn't sound like it ought to have hooks — the jagged found sound sampling on "...A Velvet Sun" gives way to a melancholy chorus that might be a vague tribute to the Police's "Invisible Sun," and the very strange shards of mistreated guitar that start off "Like Poverty" lead into a downright fruity chord progression and a shimmery singalong refrain. Throughout this album Freel flirts with annoying self-absorption, but repeatedly saves himself by virtue of pure musical invention; instead of constantly begging you to listen to his problems, he keeps distracting you from them even as he unburdens himself. Recommended.


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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Everybody Wants to Know, Swell
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