Swim Deep's debut LP is characterised by the blissed-out delivery of its romantic lyrics.
These words, delivered by frontman Austin Williams, come backed by gleeful instrumentation, encompassing bright synth sounds, chorus- and reverb-layered guitars, and subtle but tasteful drum beats.
With many tipping these Birmingham indie sorts for success, a debut album as accomplished and hit-laden as this makes it hard to see the band faltering.
Single ‘King City’ is an instant classic, and each track here is brimming with the love these musicians crave, feel, and so earnestly want to share.
‘King City’ buzzes with an adolescent certainty of belief in a Brummie-centric universe, and is probably the best track to emerge from the scene so far. It should also go without saying that for as long as he lives, Williams will probably never write a better lyric than the kiss-off of, “Fuck your romance, I wanna pretend/That Jenny Lee Lindberg is my girlfriend”. Still, a surfeit of big, primary-coloured choruses that make the listener feel like a disembodied head floating through a Soup Dragons video ensure the likes of ‘Francisco’ and ‘Soul Trippin’’ at least run those superlative singles close. More so than any of their B-Town contemporaries, pop songwriting seems to come naturally to Swim Deep.
No, the bigger problem is an overall lack of dynamism. The ramshackle energy and unpredictability of their live show has been sanded down into something more clinical and precise, and at points – the limp and languid ‘Red Lips I Know’ springs to mind – they sound less like the green shoots of Britain’s most exciting new scene, and more like gladioli wilting under the weight of their own not-botheredness. The worst offender, the happy-clappy, wishy-washy ‘Make My Sunshine’, resembles the sort of thing grunge was required to scour from the musical cistern with elbow grease and self-hatred.
These all feel like classic first-album issues – Blur, remember, had to get ‘Leisure’ out of the way before they could make the improved ‘Modern Life Is Rubbish’ – and despite Swim Deep’s relative youth and apparent inexperience, there’s enough here to suggest they’ll eventually overcome them. Certainly, you couldn’t wish for a better album closer than ‘She Changes The Weather’, a roiling, unrestrained cloudburst of a song that seems to survey the world through a pair of acid-tinted teashades and, tantalisingly, hints at a much more expansive, ambitious sound to come. Until then, if Swim Deep truly want to become a fixed point of reference for future generations, they’ll need to work harder to transcend their own inspirations.