Published Jun 13, 2014The best thing about Swollen Members has always been their inherent menace: the idea that it's just possible that they've discovered a secret incantation that will, three seconds from now, allow them to jump through the speakers and bury a battle axe in your face. It's what makes them so much fun to listen to.
But you can't be positive and ominous. It doesn't work. And the biggest flaw of Brand New Day is its refusal to commit to either approach. One minute Madchild and Prevail are extolling the virtues of their newfound happiness over sped-up soul samples, the next they're threatening hellfire and brimstone over apocalyptic horns. It's all a bit of a mess.
But in their rare moments of clarity, Swollen can be truly transcendent. "Cock Blocker" is huge fun, "Supernova" does a great job of pairing Mad and Prev with DJ Revolution's pinpoint cuts and "Park Bench" delivers some pitch-perfect philosophising. Plus, Rob The Viking's beats have just gotten better and better over time.
It's the individual bright spots that salvage Brand New Day, if only just. The dark imagery Swollen Members specialized in was growing tired; it was a problem on their last two albums and, to some extent, it's a problem on this one. But consider this album as step towards something bigger, and it will all make a crazy kind of sense. Welcome back, boys. (Battle Axe)