Swell: Well? (Anniversary Edition)

Swell
Well?
(Badman)

This album originally came out in 1991, at the height of the alternarock boom, and has recently been reissued by Badman, distributor of the band’s new album. I guess it could be fairly labeled as “shoegazer,” a subgenre that was ascendant at the time and marked by a contrast between pretty ethereal melodies and beautifully distorted guitars. It reminds me more, though, of a revved-up Church. David Freel’s vocals, especially in quieter moments, are reminiscent of Steve Kilbey’s, and much of the music here is characterized by a deft interplay of acoustic and electric guitars (“At Long Last,” “Everything”), another Church specialty. However, Swell turns it up to eleven, and songs like “Turtle Song” and “Tired” chug along with attacking guitars and the sure-footed drums of Sean Kirkpatrick. (The melody of the latter song calls to mind some of Catherine Wheel’s work.) Ultimately, though, I could take it or leave it. There’s a nice instrumental track, “Just Get Well,” added to the reissue, but listening to this just makes me want to get out some of those old albums that came out back in the early 90s and relive the salad days of dream pop. If you’re not familiar with Catherine Wheel’s Chrome, Swervedriver’s Mezcal Head, or the Boo Radleys’ Giant Steps—to say nothing of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, which I assume you own already—you should make an effort to hunt down any or all of those before buying this record.