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Friday, February 22nd
The Critics Corner: Albums
All Time Low
The Swellers- Ups And Downsizing
Debut album a great start for punk-rock upstarts
The Swellers
Name: "Ups and Downsizing"
Label: Fueled By Ramen/Atlantic
Release Date: September 29, 2009
My rating: 4.3 out of 5

Review written by: Cristina Carrazza
Meet Fueled by Ramen's newest act: The Swellers. Their 2007 independent release "My Everest" brought back the 90's rock scene. With comparisons ranging from Rise Against to Less Than Jake, the Michigan quartet gained a well deserved approval from both old and new punk fans. Now the question is, will their first release on a major label be yet another addition to the fast growing list of punk bands going radio pop? Well, "Ups and Downsizing" is nowhere close to a disappointment. In fact, it is refreshing to hear such a good raw rock album coming from a label that has been pretty mediocre lately. The Swellers' latest effort shows a clear improvement both lyrically and musically from their first full length in this anticipated follow up.

The record opens with "2009." From the moment the songs starts, you get a nice taste of the bands fast guitar riffs. One of my favorites, this song talks about living for yourself and leaving those who stand in your way behind. I definitely found myself singing along to the gang vocals - "I'll never feel the same again but I'll never rewrite anything." This is a very strong opening track and a preview of what's to come. "Fire Away" is one of the best songs of the album musically. The guitar accompaniment during the verses is even guitar-hero worthy. This is a darker sounding song. It is very interesting lyrically, using the extended metaphor or a sinking ship. Following is "Sleeper" another lighter and upbeat song with a sing-along chorus.

Although "Welcome Back Riders" is not a strong song musically, its lyrics are the best of the album. This is the band's testimony on the music industry and the roller coaster ride it has been through in the last couple of years. With lines like "We've all been sold, it's not rock & roll. Don't beat us when we're down...you didn't even listen in the first place," the guys take a strong stand on what they believe has become a "rat race."  Slowing down is "Feet First" a reflective song on life and its beauty even in the worst of situations. The slower beginning takes a very nice progression to a fast paced ending.

Another song dealing with the music industry is "Do You Feel Better Yet?" Though there are few lyrics to this track, they are very compelling - "there's nothing I'd rather do than be happy and write a love song or two, but they'll turn their backs on me." Musically speaking, the song takes an interesting progression from some acoustic choruses to an electric guitar solo while the title line is repeated, growing louder every time.

The title track "Ups and Downsizing" is the band's reflection on the economy and the way the market has been declining lately. It is very personal as they recount the way they have lived their lives in the recent past and wonder about the future  - "Do you ever wonder if we should leave or ride this out? Did you ever wonder was it worth it now?" Picking up the pace is "The Iron" with a quick, heavy guitar intro. Highlight of the song is the fantastic bass line as the lyric "no time left for anyone" is repeated. "Watch it go" is lighter song reminiscent on the band's childhood when "I'm watching time instead of watching it go by." It is a very sweet song about the meaning of time and how it evolves over the years. The guitar strumming outro adds a very nice ending.

The much needed acoustic song of the album is "Stars." It shows that The Swellers pull off the softer side of the sound spectrum quite well. It is a very sweet song with lovely lyrics, my favorite being "I'll take my time and your worries away."

"Dirt" picks up the pace once again. This song is very interesting; lyrically it's a will of sorts, talking to friends and family about what to do with the body after death. While this sounds completely odd, once you get past the basic concept of it you'll learn to love it. While very graphic, it is sweet at times with the last lyric being "so where do you go when you're crying? Just hold on to a memory of me inside of your heart always." Both literally and figuratively, this provides a very good closing to the album.

If you were expecting some groundbreaking sound this isn't the album for you. But if you find yourself listening to early Warped bands definitely give The Swellers a try. At first listen all songs might sound similar musically; but with each listen you will definitely learn to appreciate each one of them for its unique lyrics and interesting musical composition. Personally, I cannot wait to see what the band does with these songs live during their fall tour with Paramore. But for now, I will crank up my stereo and head bang along to some great punk rock.
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