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Swell | Bastards & Rarities 1989-1994 (Badman)
Presumably invisibly subtitled 'Volume One', this ten track compilation brings together various elusive b-sides and sought-after oddities by criminally overlooked San Francisco trio, Swell. Limited to the first five years of a band set to release their seventh album of new material this year, 'Bastards & Rarities', is far from definitive but is to be commended for including previously vinyl-only tracks This Is How It Starts, Too Many Days Without Thinking (both from a Sub-Pop 7") and Comfort 48 from the promo-only 'The Decoster's' EP (although these tracks have appeared on various European promo rarities).
Swell are all about texture and rhythm, David Freel's trademark acoustic guitar laying down a groove into which Sean Kirkpatrick's never static drumming and Monte Vallier's muscular basslines mingle. Freel's world-weary voice and electric lead lines worm their way through the mix, coagulating in an inimitable organic brew. It's a sturdy formula and one that continues to serve them well, despite the departure of first Kirkpatrick and then Vallier. With Kirkpatrick now back in the fold, let's hope a similarly excellent '95-2000' selection isn't too far behind.

Matt Dornan
CWAS #12 - Summer 2003

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