Music journos have called Current Swell Vancouver Island’s answer to surf rock. Originally a backyard party band from Canada, they gelled into something (give or take a few personnel changes) and then gained an audience broad and wide via the internet. Current Swell, for example, is said to be big in São Paulo, thanks to their YouTube hit “Young and Able.” They’ve managed to put out five full-length albums and an EP since they started in 2004. The music’s an unlikely roundup of styles: folk, rock, blues, and reggae. But, in truth, there’s nothing that would pass for Cali surf music about this band, true surf rock being instrumental or gimmicky or even more like a pre-runner of early punk, rather than either folk or ska.
Part of Current Swell sounds like nu-pop made in the hopes that it will get picked up by a music supervisor and peddled to a nighttime soap like Grey’s Anatomy, or one of those services that pipes hipster music into mall stores. I find that (small) corner of the Current Swell catalog somewhat amusing but stale and in disagreement with the band’s other side, which is almost in polar opposition. When that Current Swell is on, what a band! The standard instruments of folk music have never rumbled or rocked so hard, nor been the least bit sexy, all of which happens when the group works their roots stuff.
- Monday, April 20, 2015, 8 p.m.
Belly Up Tavern,
143 S. Cedros Avenue,
$25 - $27
There’s some itchy lap steel of the Washburn design at the heart of the sound — meaning a big, wooden hollow-bodied machine that howls up a storm. And the electrified harmonica is actually a part of the ensemble, sensible, and not put out front like a stunt instrument. The rocking side of Current Swell wants to be turned all the way up, wants to make the walls sweat and the roof beams quake and force the neighbors to call the cops. As it should be.