Swearin' @ YES, Manchester, 31 Jan
Allison Crutchfield's resurrected punk outfit are back with a bang at their first Manchester show in over six years
A couple of years ago, the chances that Swearin’ would be back in the UK this soon looked remote. In fact, the possibility we’d ever see them on a stage again did not seem like a realistic one. Roughly this time in 2017, singer Allison Crutchfield was releasing her first solo album under her own name. Tourist in This Town was an electro-tinged set of confessionals that was musically a long way from her old band but lyrically largely preoccupied with the dissolution of it, after her creative relationship with fellow vocalist and songwriter Kyle Gilbride collapsed under the weight of its romantic counterpart.
Hostilities thawed later that year, though, and practices that began as baby steps to test out the viability of the newly-healed bond led to last year’s terrific Fall Into the Sun, the band’s third LP and arguably their best so far. Accordingly, they’ve made it back to Manchester to play at a venue that was still a functioning auction house when they were last here in 2012. The Pink Room at YES is by no means packed, but the Philadelphia quartet quickly signal their intention to fill it with searing noise instead; opener Big Change starts out with Crutchfield spilling out a gorgeously nostalgic paean to her younger years before, at the midpoint, it explodes as the rest of the band crackle into life.
From there, the on-record back-and-forth between Crutchfield and Gilbride is rambunctiously realised onstage; the pair split writing duties down the middle on Fall Into the Sun, and there’s a weirdly appealing alchemy to the fluctuation between her sharp, observational punk (Grow Into a Ghost, the sunny riffery of Margaret) and his languid nods to the likes of Pavement and Sebadoh (Dogpile, Future Hell). A smattering of choice cuts from the back catalogue – particularly the set standout, Dust in the Gold Sack – confirm it; Crutchfield and Gilbride’s combined voice is unique, and we’re all the better for having them back.