Emerging from Hobart at the very edge of the settled world, A. Swayze and the Ghosts (AS&TG) are loud, noisy, abrasive, shouty, opinionated and – did I say loud? They are also, somewhat antithetically, the purveyors of some of the greatest intelligent pop songs around. ‘Paid Salvation’, their new album is a triumph – full of such contradictions and tensions and yet one of the most cathartic and enjoyable releases this year. And it is their debut. Astonishing.
If you took the love child of a three-way between The Clash, The Undertones and The Hives you may approximate AS&TG’s sound; an amalgam of stop/start brutality, a searching social consciousness and an ear for a superglue melody. They may inhabit the same rowdy neighborhood as bands like The Murder Capital and Fontaines D.C. but tread a more nuanced path.
Song writer Andrew Swayze is quite clear and unequivocal about his quest:
It really shits me off when bands have this pedestal and they have the ability to influence so much around them and they waste it by singing about stupid shit like going to the pub or having a smoke break at work. If you’re given this audience, I think you have to have something to say. And I definitely intend on abusing that right
So what on the surface is a cathartic thunder of chiseling punk rock riffs hides withing it lyrics of profound intelligence and – dare it be said – sensitivity. All wrapped in a singalong packaging. And herein lies the majesty of this band.
‘Connect to Consume’ eviscerates the world of social network dependence and the need for the love of strangers. ‘Suddenly’ and ‘It’s Not Alright’ (with its rampant disco beat) tackle head-on misogyny and toxic masculinity.
Single ‘Cancer’ is a theatrical glam stomper reviewed by Backseat Mafia earlier this year. Swayze says of the song:
I love this track’s elements of early house music in its Oberheim DMX drum machine, repetitive bass-line and guitar silence in sections.
Indeed it is a fascinating mash of styles with its arched lyricism, glam beat, thundering bass and electronic spine, wrapped up in a container load of punk attitude.
‘Mess of Me’ has a raw post-punk new wave feel – think early Elvis Costello, or the Undertones with unadorned guitar, expressive vocals and mountain range-high choruses.
There is also a tangible element of the new contemporary wave of post-punk bands encapsulated by Fontaines D.C. and The Murder Capital. And, of course, the essential rock’n’roll ingredient of swagger and attitude is present.
This is an album that never diminishes in quality across its 12 songs. Every track a distinct jewel in a glittering crown.
‘Paid Salvation’ is out on Friday, 18 September 2020 and you can pre-order here or directly from the band below.