An album of sparkling pop-punk tunes from these lovable veterans of the indie scene, Featuring Hue (The Pooh Sticks) and Amelia (Heavenly) deploying their fuzzed-up guitars and melodic wiles in a set of loud, energetic pop songs, an album, containing self-deprecating critiques of everything that was supposed to be great about the alternative culture of the Twentieth Century – and of the way that culture left its adherents totally ill-equipped to deal with the reality of the Twenty First.
Swansea Sound Full Lineup Includes
Hue Williams (The Pooh Sticks), Amelia Fletcher and Rob Pursey (both Talulah Gosh/Heavenly, The Catenary Wires), Bob Collins (The Dentists, The Treasures of Mexico), Ian Button, (Death in Vegas, with Louis Philippe, Pete Astor and Papernut Cambridge)
In Paradise, the first track, old-school futuristic synth-bleeps accompany Hue as he tries to establish some kind of relationship with a woman who only really exists on his screen. Like an early 80s Gary Numan aficionado, he spends most of his life in digital isolation. Meanwhile, thousands of miles away in a coltan mine, using their bare hands to dig out the precious ore that will provide the raw materials for the manufacture of Hue’s smartphone, impoverished workers lose their lives: ‘servers hum/and miners die’ goes the chorus, as the woman Hue hopes to communicate with remains as elusive as ever.
In ‘Click It And Pay’, another cracked duet, Hue is the stressed-out home-worker doing some online shopping. Amelia is the girl in some distant hyper-warehouse who fulfils his requirements. They don’t get to meet – they will never meet – but they kind-of bond through CDs by The Police and Primal Scream that form part of his shopping list. Twenty-First Century romance amounts to no more than the purchase of music reissued from the Twentieth.
The Twentieth Century provided other rock prophets: more political than Gary Numan, these men wore combat gear and sang of revolution. In title track ‘Twentieth Century’ we meet a pseudo-punk singer in fatigues, a purveyor of radical anthems, cushioned by a major label deal, who wonders why he’s lost contact with his once-devoted fans. One of those disappointed fans crops up in ‘I Don’t Like Men In Uniform’: it’s 2023 now, and he’s still angry, still seething with pain – but he’s no longer robust enough to sink his fists, or his teeth, into the authority figures he hates. Meanwhile, in ‘Punish The Young’, an ageing rock icon and sometime rule-breaker curses the young people of 2023 who couldn’t care less about his heroic past, and despises them because they don’t want to work for shit wages on the trout farm that he bought with his royalties back in the 1980s
‘Greatest Hits Radio’ pulls focus, and suddenly we are looking at three centuries – the brutal Nineteenth Century slate mines of North Wales depicted alongside the digital corporations of the Twenty-First, extracting as much profit as they can from two things people need: shelter and entertainment. In the chorus, once again, we hear the voice of the young girl forced to work in the contemporary coltan mine – as downtrodden and as abused as the kids who toiled underground in Blaenau Ffestiniog to extract the slate two hundred years ago.
This sounds grim, and if you look at the Twenty First Century hard enough, it really is. So where is the hope? Well, the music on the album really is joyful, and it really will put a smile on your silly indie face. There’s a love song to Pete Shelley (‘Far Far Away’) – a tribute to a true Twentieth Century hero. And in the final track – ‘Pack The Van’ – the band make fleeting contact with the pure idealism of their early teenage years, remembering the beautiful beach on the South Wales coast that provided the backdrop to their passionate youth. Maybe if we could access that optimism again we might find a way forward…
Anyway. Swansea Sound themselves never pretend to be anything other than creatures of the Twentieth Century. They still celebrate the joy of cramming into a car with loads of mates to see a gig at a crappy indie venue in the small town where they live (‘Seven In The Car’). And they don’t see why that kind of joy needs to stop: in fact, it may be one of the important things we’ve got left.
Swansea sound will be recording a BBC6Music Riley & Coe session in September, and will be Hue Stephens’ album of the week on BBC Wales. They are touring the UK in September and October, then playing in the US and Japan in 2024.
Swansea Sound: a brief history.Formed during lockdown, the band recorded three singles without actually meeting each other. Corporate Indie Band appeared as a cassette on specialist label Lavender Sweep. It got a lot of airplay, and the next releases were on 7” vinyl, including Indies Of the World, which made it into the UK vinyl Top 10. A debut album, Live At The Rum Puncheon, was released in 2021 to considerable critical acclaim.
Swansea Sound will play a number of live dates in the Autumn:
29 Sep 2023: St Leonards, The Piper (TICKETS)
30 Sep 2023: Paris, Popfest (TICKETS)
13 Oct 2023: Leeds, Wharf Chambers (TICKETS)
14 Oct 2023: Newcastle-On-Tyne, Cumberland Arms (TICKETS)
27 Oct 2023: Brighton/Hove, The Brunswick (TICKETS)
28 Oct 2023: London, The Water Rats