You could call the recent Swearin’ reunion—which began with tour dates alongside fellow inspirational rabble-rousers Superchunk—a better-late-than-never victory lap. Formed by vocalists/guitarists Allison Crutchfield and Kyle Gilbride in 2011, the quartet split in 2015 after releasing just two albums and an EP. But that small catalog left a deep imprint on modern indie rock, and not just because Crutchfield has since emerged as an insightful solo artist.
The original incarnation of Swearin’ tapped the zeitgeist of the ’90s music revival, its noisy guitars generally hovering somewhere between wiry indie, supercharged punk, and distortion-coated rock. Yet the band resisted pigeonholing. On 2013’s Surfing Strange, the sunburned vocal harmonies of “Echo Locate” recall fuzz-pop darlings that dog., while “Melanoma” starts off as frayed-cuff folk before exploding into a grungy dirge. Crutchfield’s perceptive songwriting elevates Swearin’, whose 2012 self-titled debut prompted Pitchfork to exclaim it “suggests writers who learned a thing or two about melodic punk poetry from Jawbreaker or the Promise Ring.” With unsparing precision, her lyrics chronicle the indignities of growing up.
The current lineup of Swearin’—Crutchfield, Gilbride, drummer Jeff Bolt, and bassist Amanda Bartley—recently signed with Merge Records and has plans to record a new album. Gilbride promises a familiar recording process (“Quickly, at home, and for no one in particular”), which bodes well. This group, after all, was always at its best when operating unselfconsciously and telling it like it has been and still is.