I let go of trying to keep up with the booming laundry list of rock classifications years ago. “‘Post”-this, “core”-that, indie blah blah blah – it all felt messy, and somewhere in the thick of it, I yearned for a more basic labeling (and creative) system of times past. Whatever happened to good ole fashion rock n’ roll? Or in many a case, what had been made of my tried and trusty punk rock?
In this age of ambiguous hipsterdom, it’s refreshing to know what you’re going to get out of an established act like the Swingin’ Utters, or any byproduct of their longstanding heavyweight label, Fat Wreck Chords, for that matter.
After nearly eight years off the grid, the Bay Area veterans have resurfaced with a familiar candor and swagger in their 7th studio album, Here Under Protest. Having ridden the coattails of punk rock brass (see Bad Religion, Rancid) throughout the ‘90s and joining a lineage of trailblazers within their scene, the Utters use their latest fourteen-song effort to preserve their gritty, working class identity and re-assert their standing amongst the neo-punk revivalist community.
Musically, you won’t find anything groundbreaking here. The band still sports their classic, accessible sound, and it’s lined with an urgent, unapologetic spirit that would make Gilman Street’s finest proud. Standout opener “Brand New Lungs” harnesses the vigor, flare, and feel of Cool To Be You-era Descendents. “Sketch Squandered Teen” employs a stripped down, syncopated rhythm we could all bounce to, while “Heavy Head” is crafted as a straightforward, four-chord ode to drinking away one’s spousal problems. Altogether, Protest is a consistent set of traditional ‘90s-era California skate rock, with a hint more of sunshine and twang compared to previous Utters releases.
Instead of reinventing the wheel after two-plus decades in action, Johnny Bonnel and company are embracing their role as one of the few remaining torchbearers of contemporary, unfiltered punk rock. Nothing more, nothing less. As their old school counterparts give way to the latest crop of youthful, brash bands on the scene, the Utters come to remind us of our roots with a sound collection of unrefined blue-collar anthems and sing a longs. Sure, I could just as easily dust off my back catalog of Lagwagon or No Use For A Name LPs, but it’s 2011, and Protest is surely fit to assuage my nostalgic inclinations.
If you want signature Fat fare, look no further. The Utters are back. And they’re still swingin’.
Click here to purchase Here, Under Protest. Listen to “Brand New Lungs” below: