By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Last Beat Records
While Darlington reaps local praise for upholding a music tradition with its 1977 punk brattiness, or Cowboys & Indians are beloved for its too-good-to-be-true old-school Western swing, why can't Loveswing be keepers of a flame, too? Because the grass fire of grunge still sputters on pathetically--witness new music by Creed and Pearl Jam and the Nixons. The difference is, we can't miss a movement until it dies, and it's time to put that mangy, lovable dog to sleep. But the crippled old thing keeps hobbling back for more praise and snacks, and Loveswing's self-titled release nips at our heels with eager wheezing.
The whole production whooshes along as if rolling downhill over shiny ball bearings; every song has its edges smoothed to innocuous, weighted curves. The first track, "Out of There," shows the record's only sign of maverick life. The thumping, staccato verses and swirling, echoing bridge poke through the metal-groove loop with honest pop cleverness. But in short order, the guitar-as-phallus chorus breaks the spell and heralds the tone of the remainder of the record. Metallica on Prozac, Soundgarden at a health spa.
That's the other problem: At least Stink#!bug and REO Speedealer approach songwriting with murderous abandon, melody be damned. And at least Kurt Cobain showed serious respect for melody, loudness be damned. Loveswing--which sprouted from the Denton music scene about five years ago, self-released a debut CD in 1995, and has appeared on a handful of Denton and Dallas rock compilations--rides the fence in between, and sometimes riding the fence doesn't mean the best of both worlds. (It's a gifted band that tills the land between "noise" and "song" with great results. The Pixies come to mind, and Lou Barlow, and locally, Baboon.)
Loveswing tries to hit every touchstone within the genre: "Tethered" pumps along with minor-key groan and long guitar passes; "Alien" skitters in with video-game sound effects, then immediately gives way to conventional circular three-chord riffing; "Sit Indian Style" does the quiet-loud-quiet thing with guileless sincerity. All along, singer-guitarist Tom Shoptaw's voice whispers and groans and quasi-screams--there's something reserved in his manner. Sure, the jagged texture's there, but under the hyper-polished production, it packs the cutting power of spork.
But the record just proves their sustained love affair with the kind of rock that, right now, needs a respirator. Can't blame a band for playing what it loves. But this planet already has an apt and watered-down Nirvana. It's called Bush. It's over, boys. Stop the train. On the other hand, if you wanna catch the trend on its next trip out of the gate, keep doing what you're doing for another six or seven years. The music you make will surely sound fresh again at some point.