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PNKSLM Recordings

Swampmeat Family Band - Polish Your Old Halo (splatter vinyl)

Swampmeat Family Band - Polish Your Old Halo (splatter vinyl)

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PNKSLM109: Swampmeat Family Band - Polish Your Old Halo
Release date: November 3, 2023
- Limited edition blue/orange splatter vinyl (edition of 100 units)

Info

The evolution of Swampmeat Family Band continues apace. When the Birmingham outfit released their incendiary third album, Muck, three years ago, it marked the culmination of the kind of vision that frontman Dan Finnemore had always had for them; having returned from the U.S. after a spell as a key member of Philadelphia rockers Low Cut Connie, he was burning with ideas and inspiration, channeling a renewed creative energy into a new-look version of the garage band he’d formed, as simply Swampmeat, with drummer T-Bird Jones in 2006.

Muck certainly felt like a family affair, one that saw the group expand to a five-piece and broaden their musical palette, boldening their bolshier side with brass, lending their forays into country some authenticity with the addition of pedal steel and, by welcoming vocalist Joni Coyne into the fold, providing Finnemore with a new foil. The new accoutrements came together to form the basis of Swampmeat 2.0, a slicker, sharper band anchored by Finnemore’s handsome arrangements and melodic sensibilities. “The response to Muck was really cool,” he reflects, “and that opened the door for us to step things up a little bit. Make a different, more textured record, where I’d think about what we could add, but also what we could take away.”

The result is Polish Your Old Halo, a record that continues Finnemore’s hot vein of songwriting form with Muck and capitalises upon that album’s creative momentum, without being afraid to try new things and remove old ones; the brass and strings that made it on to Muck have been left to one side, propelling Finnemore’s writing to the fore. The freewheeling blues rock that came to define their last album is still alive and well, especially on the breezy ‘Setting Sun’ and the swaggering, Coyne-led ‘Why Do You Care?’ But there’s also progression, something particularly evident in the album’s bookends; ‘Do It All’ brings the curtain up with juddering, synth-led punk energy, while closer ‘Plant Your Feet Correctly’ is a swooning acoustic cut, initially envisioned as having a string section but now presented in vulnerable, bare-bones fashion.

It all stems from Finnemore’s decision to look both backwards to the Swampmeat of old, and forwards at the limitless possibilities of what the band could go on to be; stripping some songs down to the essentials and embellishing others as he saw fit. “We wanted to take it back to basics on some of the record, but not all of it,” he explains. “I wanted to be quite regimented. We like to throw the kitchen sink from time to time, but you don’t want to do that on every song. It adds weight to those tracks when they do come along.” Key to the sound of Polish Your Old Halo is producer Mark Gittins, who was behind the boards after years of wanting to work with Finnemore, who had been particularly impressed by Gittins’ work with fellow Midlands rockers The Mighty Young.

Recorded in a little over a week at Megatone Recording in Birmingham, Polish Your Old Halo takes its name from the lyrics of ‘Jaded Lover’, a 1975 track by US progressive country legend Jerry Jeff Walker: a fitting testament to Swampmeat’s palpable affinity for folk and Americana on the record, as well as the personal nature of so many of the new songs. “I think ever since we went from Swampmeat to the Family Band, there’s been a seventies thing going on,” he says. “Whether it’s the sound, or the feel, I don’t know, but there’s stuff on this album that puts me in mind of Neil Young and Crazy Horse, along with stuff that sounds like The Monks or Television.”

Whereas much of Muck was rooted in heartbreak, though, Polish Your Old Halo is centred around themes of resilience. “There are some real autobiographical moments, like there always are with Swampmeat. But I’m reflecting on other situations than just my own, too, and I think it’s quite a compassionate record in places, especially on songs like ‘Black Dogs at Bay’. Just thinking about the difficulty of coping with life at times, which is something we were all going through when I was writing this album.”

The ten tracks in question represent Swampmeat’s most thrilling collection to date, as Finnemore, Jones, Coyne, bassist Richard March and guitarist Tommy Hughes solidify their bond on an album that also sees guest turns from Stewart Johnson on pedal steel and Stuart Webb on keyboards. It’s the purest distillation of Finnemore’s Swampmeat vision yet. “The temptation was just to keep adding and adding things,” he explains, “but instead, we made some radical decisions. And I think they’ve paid off.”

Catalogue number

PNKSLM109

Release date

Tracklist

Do It All
Pouring Down
Black Dogs at Bay
No Matter What You Say
Why Do You Care
Too Many Things To Hide
Same Old Same
Setting Sun
Help You Darlin'
Plant Your Feet Correctly

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