A homage to creation, self-professed attempt at escapism, going to war; a few of the ways Swim Deep have described their sophomore album Mothers. It’s a slight oversell, and at first it’s alien and exhausting to get used to, in the way that hyperactive kids tire out their parents, but the 2nd album from the Birmingham now-five piece is so much more than anyone expected – like falling down a kaleidoscopic rabbit hole.
James Balmont’s addition to the band as synth-master-supreme seems to be the driving force of change, with his dazzling keys being allowed to overwhelm the stoned 90s indie –not too dissimilar to The Jesus and Mary Chain- of their 2013 debut Where The Heaven Are We, leaving rarely more than a flicker of that album in Mothers. A secondary goal for the new album seemed to be to break from the toxicity of being labelled as a scene, as they experienced alongside Peace with the ‘B-Town’ movement –become painted into a scene and you die with it. Balmont (and likely countless other dynamic shifts) have led Swim Deep to hold a prism against WTHAW, and become enchanted by the blur of rainbow colours it yielded.
With it’s Krautrock synths that buzz like a gurning hornet, One Great Song and I Could Change the World lays it all on the table: Swim Deep think music has the power to enact change, and it’d seem they’d very much like a crack at that -although judging by the clunky social commentary on the Monarchy in Grand Affection there’s a lot of work to be done in that department. Frontman Austin Williams spends most of his time locked into a falsetto Zen state, recounting stories of his father, acid trips. He sounds like he’s having a lot more fun with the 2nd iteration of Swim Deep, throwing himself into the fray and occasionally breaking into full-on wolf howls when the mood takes him.
Mothers is at its best when racing forward giddy with helium; buoyantly optimistic Namaste could be the Numberwang theme song, and the superb To My Brother is the Stone Roses donning spacesuits in a modern ode to the glory days of acid house. The stumbles come from the mutated leftovers of Swim Deep’s exposure to cosmic radiation; clouds of murky fuzz overpower Green Conduit in its finale and the listless progression of Forever Spaceman prevent both from making any kind of mark.
The new direction on Mothers wasn’t means tested, just an all-chips-in nosedive into a new chapter, and thankfully comes out the other side without becoming an insipid nostalgia trip or garbled mess. In its lows Mothers feels like the product of a Madchester Flaming Lips cover band, and there’s far worse things to be. On the flipside, there’s the moments when everything perfectly aligns, and you get a track like Fueiho Boogie. A nod to the suppression of Japanese club culture and 8 minutes of unfurling acid-drenched insanity, the track ends Mothers with no doubt that Swim Deep live in technicolour, and their experimentation will take further than B-Town ever could.