The purest joy and benefit of being a record store employee, the thing that lasts past stealing CD openers from the front registers or doing shots with the temps in the back room, is finding, through the grace and sagacity of your co-workers, a band like Swirlies. The way it works is, you'll be standing at a table and pricing with some dude who doesn't talk much, the yogi. He doesn't bring his drama to work, and therefore enjoys what he does. It is a quiet, meditative existence, and especially awesome to behold when you see this guy pick up a disc he just stickered and crack a smile. If you've got his respect, you won't even have to ask.
"This is the disc. This is the one, right here. Not this one, even, the one before it, this is a remix album." You've had this exact same conversation with him about Mogwai. So you both walk across the store to get the album -- the real one -- in this case, They Spent Their Wild Youthful Days in the Glittering World of the Salons, and he'll put it in your hands and say, "This is it. You may not get it now, it may hit you later on and you'll regret not having it earlier, but if you get this now, you can avoid that shame and gain understanding."
"But sensei," you might protest, "How can a rock band give me greater understanding of the world about me?"
And he would tut. "What you take away from rock applies only to rock. All great music describes itself."
And you ponder on that for a couple of weeks to figure out what it means, but play it safe anyway and buy the disc on your next paycheck, then rush home, eager for this moment of revelation you've savored, throw the record on, and hate it. All of it, because it's just noise that occasionally erupts into rock, and you can't even get halfway through. You throw it in the back of your collection, never unpack it when you move, and only mention the name of the band when you're trying to impress a girl at a concert. Who the hell are you, dropping names of bands you can't even listen to? Have you forgotten about what fucking rock and roll means? Hang your head in shame, indie rock, and return to your headphones and musty records. Remember when you used to listen to music? When you used to let it roll across your palate and appreciate it? No, you're too busy being all "cool" and "counter-culture" to fucking rock out, like mentioning you once listened to a record from some act out of Cambridge that you heard was once playing at The Middle East which is just down the street from that bar where you once asked a girl for a PBR and you think she smiled will ever get you laid. My friend, you must return to your lessons, root down and listen to this Swirlies record handed unto you in your infancy, and then take a long meditation on the mystical fact that, yes, this band could've passed you by, because they're fucking ferocious and you were too busy calling it noise and hoping it was cool.
So what you have on your hands is a classic case of alleged Go-Go's cover band turned sonic assault group who have the handy knack of throwing all that they can into a song without overpopulating it, ending result being a harrowing array of samples, drones, screeches, doo-doos, strums, jars, hooks, and spinecrushing guitar work upon which floats the airy vocals of Damon Tutujian, a singsong disarray of conflicting elements that support each other. Swirlies conjure a perfect combination of structure in songwriting and freedom of rock that rarely comes across on any recording, creating cacophony that sets you on edge, but remains interesting enough to be listenable. It's a cruel swindle they're running, but they make good on their intentions: the few recordings that Swirlies have thusfar bestowed upon the world, including those under their various monikers The Yes Girls and Sneaky Flute Empire, are acquired tastes, but ultimately rewarding.
Part of the reason Swirlies have had such intermittent (and quiet) releases lies in the everpresent threat of Rotating Lineup Syndrome, making the band Tutunjian and bassist Andy Bernick's show. The gap between the first LP, 1993's Blonder Tongue Audio Baton and the 1996 release of They Spent Their Wild Youthful Days in the Glittering World of the Salons is annoyingly slim compared to the wait for another "real" release (excluding remix album Strictly East Coast Sneaky Flute Music and limited pressings from side projects). Over the course of the years, though, the lineup of the band has featured a survey course of New England regional indie rock, including the departure of original female vocalist Seana Carmody for Syrup USA, second female vocalist Christina Files for Mary Timony's backing band and Victory at Sea, and the eventual additions of Rob Laakso and Ken Bernard of the Wicked Farleys, Mike Walker of The Lilys, and Kara Tutunjian. Nothing has been recorded since the band's departure from Taang! Records in '98, save for a four song demo recorded in November of 2001 that is being shopped around. Happily, though, a semi-stable lineup of Swirlies plays the intermittent show in Boston or New York City, just to prove they're still alive.
It's vitally important to recognize that these guys toe the line between difficult and unlistenable, but they do it well. This is music that will battle with you, will pick you up and rock you into loops that will disorient you and make you think ill of physics and music. It is intricately assembled with repeated applications of distorted off-key phrases. It probably doesn't give two shakes of a dead drummer's dreadlocks whether you like it or not because it's survived this long without you and it's been just fine, thanks for the vote of sympathy, motherfucker. If that's your bag, these kids are a discordant joyride that will fill your head with a nirvana you never thought possible. Otherwise, good luck on that name dropping for sex thing. I hear White Stripes are real panty peelers.
Super-ultra-groovy bare bones band run website from which much of this information was gleaned may be found at http://evil-office.net/swirlies/