There may be some unfair pressure on Swingin’ Utters’ new record. Nevermind that it’s been eight years since the excellent Dead Flowers, Bottles, Bluegrass, and Bones, but since then Lagwagon has fallen off the map and, with the exception of 2009’s Coaster, NOFX has been, well, coasting. So, in a lot of ways, Swingin’ Utters are carrying the torch for the big-time vets at Fat Wreck, and luckily Here, Under Protest is a powerful return for them. It’s not quite as expansive in its sound as Dead Flowers, but it still has the mix of street-punk charge and pop sensibility the band has been honing its whole career. Songs like “Brand New Lungs” and the ultra-catchy “Time on My Own” snarl through crunching riffs and rasping vocals, while “Kick it Over” and “Sketch Squandered Teen” are downright blissful slices of power-pop. Over 14 songs, the guys consistently deliver great rock songs with the kind of assured delivery that comes from years together. This is the kind of return that feels necessary, as if the band was waiting eight years not just to put out their next record, but to hopefully put out their best. Whether or not it tops Dead Flowers may be just about personal preference, but even with all this time between them, those two records prove just how good Swingin’ Utters are at what they do. If they are carrying that torch for the other vets, they’re also laying down a challenge. They’ve still got the fire, now who else can match it?
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