One of the recent (and more exciting) trends in music is for labels to re-release a band’s previously hard-to-find catalogue. Sometimes the re-release will be mastered, or contain extra tracks from the band. Sometimes the music is released on a medium (CD) that was originally not available for the music listener. And oftentimes, the re-release combines the most important tracks from a band’s body of work onto one convenient disc. Tied into this trend is the re-release of out of print songs from bands that didn’t enjoy a particularly wide popularity, so labels release the music again in the hopes that it’ll catch the ears of new fans. Ohio’s Elephant Stone Records continues this trend, with a sprawling 23 track release of the greatest tracks from British garage-psych-rock-pop group Reverb. With a discography that spans only about 5 years in the mid-90’s, the trio was able to fashion a surprisingly extensive catalog of energetic rock songs that won the band acclaim in their native UK. Elephant Stone has compiled the highlights of this era into one CD called Swirl, named after the group’s UK charts hit.
For a compilation of decade-old songs from a relatively obscure and foreign band, Swirl sounds impressively fresh. The material has aged tremendously well, and the frantic and slightly hypnotic music fits in well with today’s North American underground pop-punk-rock scene. With subtle nods to Echo and the Bunnymen, David Bowie, and perhaps The Church, the songs of Reverb quake with the swagger and hints of rebellion that are present in every great rock band. Swirl consists of short, terse rock jams, mostly about 3 minutes long, and are linked together by the punchy vocals of Ant Walker. Sounding neither elegant nor overly raw, Walker’s vocals fit perfectly with his band’s songs that seem to threaten to brim over to rock mayhem…but never quite go over the edge. What the listener is left with, then, are wonderful little pop-rock songs that convey a strong sense of tension within the music and playing. At 23 tracks, recorded within a relatively short time and not veering too far from the band’s style, the songs of Swirl do seem to largely mesh together, but that is also a result of Elephant Stone’s wise song sequencing. However, it makes it a little challenging to point out real highlights of Swirl, because all of the songs deserve a good listen. “Pedal” sticks out, due to its catchy melody and subtle keys (an instrument not heard on most of Reverb’s other songs). The short “Sensory Overload” (which seems to be a song about a man struggling to not go insane at a lost love) is a full throttle rock-punk song (sounding a bit like a better produced The Ramones) with oodles of vigour and yet a strong melody. The mostly instrumental “Deep” shows the band’s devotion and penchant for psychedelia, despite its quick tempo and energy. “Mr. Soundman” is a timeless rock song with a strong melody, nice guitar playing in lieu of a chorus, and fun lyrics. Indeed, one can comment on all of the songs on Swirl, as amazingly, there isn’t a weak track on the album. Some songs are a little more aggressive, veering on the side of classic punk, while others are more straight-forward rock-pop (and still others leaning ever so gently on the side of psychedelic sounds), but in totality, all of the songs are interesting, fun, and lively.
Swirl is not the usual kind of CD one would expect us to review at Somewhere Cold (despite the band’s very dreampopish name), but this collection of high-quality rockers is strong enough on its own to garner our attention, despite its dissimilarity to the music we usually feature. And shoegaze fans will find something to like in the psychedelic “Cut”, with its haunting mood and lingering guitars. But, mostly, Swirl chronicles a talented band’s too short career, and provides the listener with a batch of songs that are just as relevant today as they were when they were originally released. A fine tribute to a nearly forgotten band, Swirl is a testament to just how wonderful this re-releasing trend can be, and is sure to win Reverb some new fans.