SW!MS, THE: Itemlord: CD

Song craft, fuzzed-out guitar tones, and adventurous instrumentation gives this music all the muscle of a great album. But The Sw!ms’ strengths are also its weaknesses. It’s like how a triceratops’ horns may have over evolved, making them too big for the dinosaur’s head. Well, in The Sw!ms’ case, it’s more like their court jester hat got too big. So big, in fact, that it cloaks them in renaissance faire-style clothes. From the album’s first track, “All Is Nice,” there is the exotic sound of a tin flute playing classical melody. And even the CD package plays the part with its psychedelic acid rock throwback cover art of bright shades of green, yellow, purple, and blue. It’s got the band members sitting in cartoon thrones with penciled-in, colorful garb holding various staffs. The album is laced with high-pitched Moogs and fuzzed-out instruments touching on ‘60s pop and psychedelic influences. Think Captain Beefheart without the beef. These songs pack no bite, rending a PG rating that would have hippie parents salivating at the chance to start a drum circle with their freshly patchouli-ed toddlers as Itemlord blasts in the background. Sw!ms have got the art of pop song writing down and a niche, to boot, but, for most people, the renaissance faire might be a once in a year extravagance.

 –N.L. Dewart (Wall Ride)