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Swearin' is a fucking great band

Effin' Awesome

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"I think it's 'fuck,' " says Swearin' guitarist and co-frontperson Allison Crutchfield. She can't say for sure whether her band's name is a celebration of cursing or one of vowing (it's a nod to an old song by bandmate Kyle Gilbride), but she can tell me her favorite swear word. "I feel like it's socially acceptable to use the word 'fuck' all the time, too — it's the one I use the most."

And Swearin' is a fucking great band.

Though their new album Surfing Strange was released just last month, nearly every song packed into the succinct, 35-minute fuzz fest sounds like it could be nestled in the middle of one of CMJ's old "New Music Monthly" samplers, circa 1996. The songs are as restless as they are melodic, and Swearin's collective adoration for acts like Superchunk and The Breeders shines through especially on the stoned "Echo Locate" and "Watered Down," as well as the first single (and their best song yet) "Dust in the Gold Sack." The band even takes a few minutes to flirt, albeit subtly, with a psych-pop sound on "Glare of the Sun" (meaning that's the one to do mushrooms to, if you're so inclined).

The reckless, jammy vibes are a bit of a shift from the Philly-based quartet's 2012 self-titled debut. Swearin' is packed with unforgettable power-pop hooks, and all songs but one clock in under the three-minute mark. Surfing Strange is heavier, and the simple, bouncing chords have been replaced with swirling, reckless sonic spirals. But don't panic: There are still pogo-able moments — "Unwanted Place" and "Young" will definitely inspire rhythmic calisthenics.

While some bands might be cautious when releasing an album that steers away, even slightly, from a sound that initially won over so many (their debut earned them an enviable 7.8 rating from Pitchfork), Crutchfield wasn't too worried about how Surfing Strange would be received. She grew up as a young feminist in Alabama and has been playing music with twin sister Katie (who is now in the excellent Waxahatchee) since she was a teenager — she's learned to focus on creating music she's happy with instead of trying to please others.

"I'm at a point in my life where I feel like I can take whatever anyone's gonna throw at me," Crutchfield says. "We just want to make music that we all like. It took me a while, but at this point, I'm like, 'Whatever, I like it, I don't care.' "

Live, the rest of the band proves to wear the thicker sound well, too. On their current U.S. tour, the quartet — while playing "Mermaid," one of Surfing Strange's beefiest songs — carefully toes the superfluous jam-session line, à la Built to Spill. They never completely fall into Doug Martsch's particular brand of madness, but Crutchfield, Gilbride, bassist Keith Spencer and drummer Jeff Bolt may be seen slowly bobbing their heads, getting lost in the whirling cloud of noise. Not surprisingly, Crutchfield says "Mermaid" is the very song responsible for taking Swearin' down the more experimental path.

"It's funny, because that song had so many different versions, and there are so many things we changed about it," she says. "It was really frustrating, because we couldn't get it to sound the way we wanted it to sound, and then it kind of happened, and we all loved it. It was super heavy. That song paved the way — we fell in love with the way it ended up."

If you miss the days when bands like Sonic Youth and Pavement graced the cover of CMJ but are aching for something to make you not feel like an over-nostalgic old fart, you'll fucking love it too.

Email music@nashvillescene.com.

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