Swords’ new album a top pick for critics’ best
There is something elite about the highly touted new album “Metropolis” by Swords.
Bulging tension. Stormwater melodies. Frantic counter-rhythms. Swirling guitar/violin/synth lines. It starts where fans of Portland’s favorite chamber-rock experimentalists would expect, but where it goes from there shows the sort of progressive brilliance the sextet merely hinted at with its first self-titled EP (2001 on Absolutely Kosher) and subsequent full-length, “Entertainment Is Over If You Want It” (2003 on Arena Rock) – both released under the band’s former name The Swords Project.
On Swords’ first studio effort since dropping “Project” from its handle, the sometimes menacing, other times tender vocals are no longer ghosted in the back of the brooding atmospherics.
The Swords – lead singer and bassist Corey Ficken, drummer and producer Evan Railton, violinist and keyboardist Liza Rietz, guitarist Jeff Gardner, guitarist Ryan Stowe and drummer (yep, two drummers) Corey’s brother Joey – take advantage of the band’s pop- sensibilities in a way they haven’t embraced until “Metropolis,” making it Swords’ most accessible album to date – a wee less like The Rachels and a bit more like Pinback, a darker shade of Viva Voce. It’s sophisticated, paranoid and pretentious, phasing from noisy to symphonic but with a pulsating urgency.
“Metropolis” is a compact universe that cynically sulks over the corruption of commercialism, choral desensitization through the media and society’s general acceptance of cultural poisoning – in both veiled poetics and blatant sermons.
Swords’ new album might top critics’ best of lists for 2005, so expect this show to be a little too cool for Spokane.
Hopefully the numbers won’t be as low on Tuesday night as they were the last time Swords visited town five years ago. Otherwise it might be another five years before Swords come back again.
Make it a point to catch the group on Tuesday at Fat Tuesday’s, 109 W. Pacific Ave. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 in advance, $7 at the door, through TicketsWest, www.ticketswest.com or (800) 325-SEAT. Also on the bill is California indie-rock band Dios Malos and local rock purists The High Holies.
It’s a Jem jam
By now someone surely has come up with a decent Jem and the Holograms joke, so we’ll skip that.
Let’s get to the point: As heard on “The OC,” Jem has a sassy club-beat/trip-hop sound that recalls a little Dido on her Faithless cameos, except the beats are actually good. Hailing from Wales, Jem has all of the elements of the next pop star – the look, the attitude, the production, a gimmick – rolled into a tight little package.
Sure, it’s a manufactured radio-ready pop and it’ll likely dry up before winter’s first snow, which is all the more reason to consider catching Jem on Tuesday at 8 p.m. at the Big Easy Concert House, 921 W. Sprague Ave. Singer- guitarist Josh Kelley opens the show. Tickets are $10 through TicketsWest.
• Local mind-warpers Weight make an appearance on Saturday at The B-Side, 230 W. Riverside Ave. Opening the show is dark-wavers Flee the Century. Music starts at 9:30 p.m. There is a $5 cover.
• Portland rockers Mission 5 comes Saturday at 9:30 p.m. to Mootsy’s, 406 W. Sprague Ave. Cover to be announced.
• Local cover bands Blyndspot, Audioburn and Waysook come together for a Hurricane Katrina benefit show tonight at Blue Dolphin, 16 S. Robie Road. There is a $5 suggested donation.