Climb the mountain and bring back a peach

Perusing the glossy photo insert of the Swords’ newest album Metropolis, I remembered an admittedly drunken conversation I had with one of their members about two years ago. While huddled in a basement in Northeast Portland, listening to a band that probably only existed for a few weeks tear through an enormous set of slovenly rockers I asked, actively putting my food in my mouth, "Aren’t you in this band?"


"No," he said. "I wish my band was this good."


Of course, that was before the Swords, then called a project, became one of the most talked about bands on the Portland indie market.


It was also before the band started singing songs.


I’ve never really "gotten" the Swords’ music. And I have to say I don’t really "get" this album either.


When the band was a theatrical rock show during the halcyon days of Godspeed! You Black Emperor’s rise to fame, I was looking for structure and melody. And now that the band has morphed into indie rock’s Argent, I’m looking for the rock essentialism that former Zombie Rod Argent brought to proggy songs like "God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll to You."


Instead, Metropolis offers a detectably earnest, yet oddly detached retelling of prog pop on songs like "Radio, Radio." Beyond the challenge of comparison a song inherits when it shares a title with an Elvis Costello tune – Frank Black of the Pixies forced his own "Allison" to refocus on Mose Allison in an effort to distance his cut from Costello’s classic – "Radio, Radio" has a hard time connecting it’s lilting Stipeian vocal melody with the Kid A-inspired thrupp of its backbeat.


Ultimately, what seems intended for anthemic splendor winds away without leaving much of an impression. But at the heart of such an effort there seems a genuine urge to do it and do it well. Perhaps that two-year-old wish of self-betterment is still alive in this band and this just isn’t the album that realized their goals. Well, darlings or no, there’s still time to climb prog mountain and return with an ELO peach.