Swell Maps, A Trip To Marineville

J. Edward Keyes

By J. Edward Keyes

on 04.22.11 in Reviews
Fantastically ramshackle — punk coming apart at its seams

Swell Maps were born in the aftershocks of punk rock, combining a junk-shop aesthetic with serrated chords and slurred, lager-fueled melodies. Led by brothers Nikki Sudden (who passed away this past Sunday) and Epic Soundtracks, Swell Maps snubbed technical proficiency in favor of raw power. Marineville has been cited as a precursor to both Pavement and Sonic Youth, but it seems nastier and sloppier than both. On songs like the menacing "Midget Submarines," Sudden's guitar snaps like a rattlesnake, and the loose, shambling "Blam!!," with its hollered chorus and crazy rhythms, sounds like a distant cousin to California punk outfit the Weirdos. While part of it may just be my own subconscious knee-jerk against indie rock's increasingly glossy veneer, there's something about Swell Maps 'gloriously damaged goods that remains refreshing and inspiring.