The O’Brien cousins, Charlie and Ryan, grew up on the same estate in sunny Sheffield, UK and attended university near London. With a couple mates at school they formed The Council Walls, whose one and only independently released single, “Unimpressive,” managed to scrape the bottom rungs of the local indie charts. Following a show on a stifling summer night at the 100 Club that ended in a food fight, the band split. Charlie & Ryan soon found their way to the USA, eventually settling in Chicago, Illinois and forming The Unswept.
Their Ep, “Surf Song,” is loaded with drive and has that special avant-garde sixties flavor that makes The Unswept so special. From “Surf Song 89,” to “She’s So Cool,” and “You’re Going Home” to “Get Away,” their blend of dreamy & confident indie rock, and summertime 60’s styled jangle-pop, runs through all the bars of music here.
It’s miles above standard 80’s jangle pop-rock, and sits comfortably between R.E.M., Big Star and even Primal Scream. The songs are intelligent, well written, and completely catchy. It’s one of those Ep’s that seems to be impossible to get sick of, partly because it’s so intelligent and partly because there’s so much to dissect, even in only 4 songs.
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You quickly get the idea that The Unswept aren’t trying to be anything but themselves on this Ep. I love the harmonies and the lyrics behind them too, while the clean sounding guitars have an original sound that just drive through the speakers with absolute force.
The tunes are all hummable, but not in the annoying bubble-gum way, especially because of the tongue-in-cheek subject matter in a lot of the songs. So what do we really have here, with the “Surf Song” Ep? Well a real treat. The album is like a treasure that washes up on the shore and you get to open it up and take a peek. The sound is very present and vintage at the same time. Which is the way this music should be.
The Unswept have a definite charm about them. A party atmosphere permeates their sound. They keep things in a playful mood, nothing really deep, just a good time sound. Which really works well with they’re doing on this album. I’m still listening, and will be for some time.
Despite its condensed length, “Surf Song” is a surprisingly focused effort. In a musical world of emotional deciphering and slow lazy beats, this album tends to stand as a breath of fresh air. The band also provides vocal tracts that are clear and unique while the mix of retro instrumentation makes for a really big and happy sound.
Given the current recurrence of interest in the retro pop underground sound, this Ep might be the undiscovered gem you’ve been looking for.
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