March 16, 2016

Swamp: Sad Phoebe and the Washing Machine Review

(Independent Release) Sad Phoebe and the Washing Machine, the debut full-length from Athens three-piece Swamp, arrives more than a year after it was recorded. (It follows a live album, Block, as well as a 2014 EP and a demo collection from the previous year.) But the band is one of the most active on the live scene, and Sad Phoebe showcases a group that has fine-tuned its jerky, janky brand of rock to an impressive degree.

Like colleagues Dead Neighbors, Swamp’s sound owes to that strain of angular guitar-pop forever embedded in the DNA of Athens music. Swamp takes an unguarded approach, relying neither on effects pedals nor muddled sonics, reflecting a gleeful sense of spontaneity. The rhythm section trips over itself and pretends it didn’t happen; riffs emerge and then decay in real time.

The 12-song record is both weirdly compelling and steadfastly sophomoric, as heard on “Digging Heels,” where a character “descended down into the burning realm and shit himself,” only to be sentenced to an eternity of further degradation as “a thousand men dropped trou and dumped on him for a thousand years.” The 14-minute “Brontosaurus” plows through nearly 10 minutes of Sonic Youth-style freakout before outing itself as a Primus-lite noise jam. It’s absurd, but such is the world of Swamp, where a joke’s only funny until it’s terrifying.