Birmingham’s Swim Deep return with a new line up on their third album, Emerald Classics. Whilst their reverence for acid house and Nineties nostalgia remains as strong as ever, the new record hints at personal and collective struggles to provide some of their most introspective songs to date.
Right from the opening gospel tinged vocals of ‘To Feel Good’, a melancholic reworking of Rozalla‘s smash Nineties dance hit on ‘Everybodys Free’, the band place themselves in the midst of the Hacienda. However, it has the feel of a band looking in from the outside, desperate to break in. With spoken word verses and a chorus led by the Margate Social Singing choir, lead singer Austin Williams talks of the disaffected struggles of day to day life for the young people seeking a break and opportunity, which is as pertinent for some today as it would have been in the Nineties, whilst the accompanying video tells the real life experiences of signing on for Williams.
The whole album yearns for a simpler time, the work of a young band who haven’t had critical or popular success, played Glastonbury or toured the US with The 1975. In some ways the band have hit reset, reforming as five piece with new members Tomas Tomaski on drums (formerly of Childhood) and Robbie Wood on guitars joining original members James Balmont and Cavan McCarthy. Brought together through a shared love of ’90s pop, discovered together in The Emerald pub from which the album takes it name, the band rediscovered their passion for music. The result is an ambitious and challenging album that shows evolution, not revolution, from their previous releases.
Swim Deep’s music remains anthemic at its core, awash with sweeping synths and Happy Mondays influenced drum patterns. The wishy washy baggy indie of their debut and psych of their second album, Mothers, are blended together, building on the fantastic hits ‘To My Brother’ or ‘She Changes the Weather’. There is more to the record, however, than big choruses. There is darkness in ‘0121 Desire’, tales of apathy, poverty and dejection delivered in Austin’s trademark wispy Brummie vocals. ‘Bruised’ meanwhile is vulnerable and delicate in its recount of heartbreak. However, a sense of hope remains, a brightness in the instrumentation and in ‘World I Share’ optimism in the stories they tell.
At times it is quite a light album musically, and wholly deferential in its sound. The reverence and revivalist tendencies are evident on the likes of ‘Top Of The Pops’, but they also prove they are capable of putting their own stamp on the sound, infusing classic pop elements on ‘Drag Queens Of Soho’ and drum & bass in ‘Happy As Larrie’. Lyrically, the record dares to be more personal than before, opening up on second single ‘Sail Away, Say Goodbye’ to address Williams’ struggles of losing his grandmother to dementia, whilst ‘Father I Pray’ also hints at the resolve required in the years between releases. It is in those moments that their lyrics take on more impact than ever before.
Their writing has always drawn from a borad church, profound in delivery but not necessarily rooted in deeper meaning. The challenges the band have faced over the past four years however, have impacted them as people and the music they make, and made them a better band as a result. Whilst the pure pop moments of ‘Honey’ or more unexpected sounds of Mother might not be felt across Emerald Classics, it still stands as a strong return from a band that could have easily called it a day. Instead, they have returned more curious, creative and ambitious than ever before. In ‘Never Stop Pinching Yourself’ they have managed to capture the best elements of the album in six minutes of classic pop song writing, rich production drawing in horns, guitars keys and percussion, and a chorus that is Gallagher brothers at their best.
Swim Deep have just kicked off an autumn tour in support of the release. Full tour dates below. Emerald Classics is out now on their newly formed label imprint, Pop Committee via Cooking Vinyl and is available HERE.
Autumn Tour Dates
03 – Banquet Records, Kingston
04 – Rough Trade East, London
05 – Chalk, Brighton
06 – The Globe, Cardiff
08 – Rough Trade, Bristol
09 – Vinilo Record Store, Southampton
10 – Rough Trade, Nottingham
11 – District, Liverpool
13 – Stereo, Glasgow
14 – The Cluny, Newcastle Upon Tyne
15 – The Wardrobe, Leeds
19 – Band on the Wall, Manchester
21 – The Watefront, Norwich
22 – The Salisbury Club, Cambridge
24 – The Garage, London