SBS reviews ‘Blood is Sicker than Water’
Blood Is Sicker Than Water – EP Review by JER@SBS
Been treating myself over these past couple days… taking it easy on the regular schedule and diving deeper into some records that I know have popped up throughout the scene from bands I know to be reliably strong with brand-new tunes out there. Swami Lushbeard was the choice for today… I’m talking review-wise anyway; it’s been the choice for many days over the course of the past couple months if we’re counting the music – and I’ve had the sheer privilege of listening to these new songs develop to the powerful set of three that now exist on their new EP Blood Is Sicker Than Water.
We’ve been longtime supporters of Swami Lushbeard… we’ve heard the band grow, change and evolve since first tuning into the follow-up to their first full-length album Who You Were? with their A Burning Desire EP. From interviews we’ve had and stories shared – I feel closer to this band than most when it comes right down to it…great people, great music and a true unity you can hear continuing to drive the songs they make…and even though I’ve talked with many of the members of the current lineup in the past, I’d be inclined to say that you really get to know this band better than ever before through these three new tunes. Boldly displaying they’ve still got plenty to say and crisp, new, tight-ideas in their music that have this band sounding their best to-date – Swami Lushbeard’s Blood Is Sicker Than Water contains vibrant rock with clever combinations, intense musicianship and a truly passionate approach.
Quite honestly…knowing anything about this band aside… if it was just the music I knew about and nothing more I’d still be proud of the effort made on this EP and evolution in the Swami sound – they should be too. Throughout their story – this band has gone through a ton to still be out there and kicking ass… songs with depth like you’ll find on Blood Is Sicker Than Water are both hard to write and hard to perform when associated with the roots of the complex emotions that are driving the material. Exploring themes like the intensity in relationships between friends & family, self-reflection and observations, emotions and lyrics that express many of the feelings we experience collectively – Swami Lushbeard has written a dynamic set of three-tunes that feels as full and satisfying as an entire record.
With an eerie and curious guitar-line, the new adventure begins with “Haunted.” I dig the way the entire sound of this opening-cut feels mysterious and really pulls you in to listen as a result; unleashing a bold contrast, the hooks of “Haunted” take the song to a brighter and more inviting sound. The lead in to the chorus is extremely strong each time…and lyrically, if you’re following this one I think you’ll find the music echoes the energy and tone in the mood solidly all along; the verse is more like the explanation and the chorus represents that solution…that breaking-free. ‘Just let go,’ as they say. The tightness in this idea overall is quite strong; the way they’ve brought it to life through the combination of dynamics that shift as the verse builds into the chorus is quite impressive. Lead-singer Don Sprouls has some highlight moments as the song heads towards the chorus second-time through… the drums came out sounding big & bold, distant in the mix but separated so you get a beautiful clarity on what you hear…and Ian’s killin’ it back there, as always. Complete with a wicked guitar solo before the third minute, impressive harmonies and vocals carry “Haunting” through its chorus run-throughs to the end with increasing intensity in the vocals. The final part of “Haunting” – like I’m talking the VERY final seconds where they bring it back to the style of where the song first began was a brilliant touch and captivating last addition to the opening tune on Blood Is Sicker Than Water.
What’s most impressive about their new EP however, goes on to be the consistency in quality across the board of these three tracks. I might feel slightly partial to “Twist & Shout” – MAYBE – but truthfully, it’d be only by a hair and photo-finish that would separate it from the rest. I did feel like what put it just over the top for me was the sense that every member of this five-piece crew got a true moment to shine on this second cut even more-so than the others. Drums from Ian are perfection once again…lots of inventive fills and a solid steady & powerful tribal-sound of sorts drives a lot of the atmosphere in the verse and with excellent transitions, he pounds out the chorus. M@ the keyboardist of Swami Lushbeard adds SO MUCH to this tune that I absolutely love in the swirling elements that complement the melody of the song. Don has more highlight guitar moments and delivers real texture into the music of “Twist & Shout” through the effects & tones he’s chosen. Solidly sung with newest member Greg Safel adding to the vocals to strengthen the sound and tone in the melodies they write – they drift through a dreamy verse before rocking the chorus, solos and instrumental sections of “Twist & Shout.” But bar-none… I felt like the real star of this tune came from the bass-man – another first-time Swami in their lineup by the name of Brian Crerar. What a beast! This guy deserves a lot of credit for the highly creative and stunning bass-lines that run deep throughout the rhythm of “Twist & Shout.” With the twinkling guitar sounds spread-out gently over top and the dramatic way this song transitions, turns and builds throughout its length completely retains its electric & exciting atmosphere. The jam these guys go into around the third-minute forward starts and stays impressive; guitars sound incredible, keyboards and drums flailing wildly before it all crashes and lands back into its gentle breakdown. Taking a moment of pause before ripping into an inspired ending…Swami Lushbeard kind of reminds me a bit of Brother Cane on this tune… especially when you consider the way Don sings this one. Powerful stuff!
On Blood Is Sicker Than Water’s final cut – “F.E.A.R.” strikes out powerfully through bold instrumentation and a wild final performance. Combining huge hooks and a progressive approach – “F.E.A.R.” is like the Beach Boys deciding that three chords were indeed not enough and really exploring what else music can offer – but still retaining those bombastically bright vocals. And that’s really what hits you quickly as “F.E.A.R.” sets in… the thick & powerful harmonies sound very strong on this last cut and the energy of this last song immediately springs to life. A solid combination of psychedelic groove-rock and intense ideas in the writing lead this song everywhere from a sound like The Doors in the verse to the more modern alt-pop/rock-inspired sound of its chorus & lead-in. I could even get away with making a Queens Of The Stone Age reference towards this… the heavy grooves that Swami Lushbeard find in this tunes instrumental sections have that similar rhythm & hypnotic grind. The solos around the three-minute mark sound great, the drums are precision-perfect back there and the cymbals sound really fantastic in the mix of “F.E.A.R.” as that unified sound in this band strengthens to its maximum towards the energetic sound this song takes on towards the end.
In one final twist…Don comes out to start a BRILLIANT and memorable ending to this EP. Stripping it all the way back to just the vocals and a gentle melody with a minute to spare still was a bold but effective way to end this record…the way the vocals come in to back him up as the song fades out was pure perfection and you really get that sense of completion after it concludes. But MAN! What a journey they bring you on throughout these three tracks eh? This is a meaty set of three… great rhythms, great grooves and the tightest musicianship & ideas I’ve heard from the band to-date. If they’re going to continue with making music of this much consistency, entertainment and outright quality in their songwriting – I’ve got no doubt at all that this entire band is going to go on and surprise themselves at just how much they’ve got to offer throughout the years to follow. Definitely a project I want to see continue – Swami Lushbeard makes great music and writes a fantastic tune – and ANY track you could select from their new Blood Is Sicker Than Water EP would be all the proof of that you’d need.