Nashvilleís SWAG would have you believe that itís a supergroup run by Cheap Trickís Tom Petersson and friends from The Mavericks and Wilco. At least, that was the impression I got. If that impression sells records, in this case thatís fine. Truth be told, this is the solo venture of two Mavericks; Robert Reynolds (Vocals, Guitar) and Jerry Dale McFadden (Vocals, Keyboards) with the third "main" member being Ken Coomer (Drums, Vocal), formerly of Wilco. You may also know McFadden from Sixpence None The Richer or even Owsley. Doug Powell (Guitar, Vocals) also figures prominently with SWAG, but he usually joins Tom Petersson in the shadows of the wings at stage left and right by supporting SWAG whenever he can. Whew. Thatís a history lesson and a half on the band, and I wonít even scratch the surface of the ever-growing cast of fantastic musicians who make cameos in songwriting and sitting in.
Under expert direction of producer Brad Jones (Jill Sobule, Imperial Drag, The Shazam, Bill Lloyd), this loose collective of "just for fun" musicians and songs springs to life as the first real album from SWAG. And lively it is, itís one of the catchiest records of great, disposable pop tunes Iíve ever heard. Some songs are so catchy they beg for an immediate replay. Cascading, Beatles-esque (can we use that phrase anymore?) chord changes and melodies engage the listener from beginning to end, making the album fly by. Zombies and Kinks influences also abound here Ė SWAG are delightfully stuck in the two-minute, thirty-second pop songs of 1966. The album is expertly played, with the pleasantly tight rhythm section of Ken Coomer and Tom Petersson (though one suspects Brad Jones played bass on most of the album), plus jangly guitars, delicious keyboards and guest musicians to spice things up. Some songs are almost too catchy; the opening track "Lone" being a fine example of the devious hooks and melodies these guys can concoct. But donít worry rock fans, this record was actually made with you in mind as well. Bill Lloyd makes his guest co-writing and backing musician appearance on the album with the ballsy "Iíll Get By," a tune apparently written for Hansonís next album (Iíve heard Matthew Sweet wrote one for that album too, so Lloyd is in good company). The "You Really Got Me" vibe is worked on "Please Donít Tell," and "Ride" serves as the perfect show-closing rock adventure. In between are many perfect examples of the gentle, thoughtful cameo pop tunes The Beatles, The Kinks and The Beach Boys explored on albums like "Revolver," "Something Else" and "Pet Sounds". Iíd describe some of it as blissful. This album is a fine listen as background music or headphone listening, with a light, happy vibe gluing the songs together. Despite Brad Jonesí caring attention to detail and sonic quality, a bit of high-end mp3-style wateryness pervades the album through its mastering (thatís my guess, anyway) at points, but most listeners would probably not notice it at all. Aside from that, Iíve got no complaints whatsoever. I give this album a good recommendation to anybody who likes their vintage pop just a little rocked up.