The psychedelic sock-hop that opens the Swims’ debut, Ride of the Blueberry Winter, is painful and trite; it sounds a bit like the imaginary hit song from That Thing You Do!, and I’m not convinced people actually like that sort of stuff, if they ever did at all. Two songs later, on “We Need…Lava,” there’s this “Do it, do it, do it/ All the time” refrain — super-obnoxious — that sounds exactly like the song from That Thing You Do!, and I’ve about given up. Strangely, though, it ends in this solemn cello passage that’s pleasant and totally unexpected, the kind of palate-cleansing I love to hear no matter how clichéd it’s become.
There’s a lot of this — annoying ’60s throwback jingles interrupted by the odd (but infrequent) burst of sunshine sweetness or reflective noodling. “Sara Jean” is the best example of the latter and also the best song on the Scranton, Pa.-based band’s record — tender and full of yearning in a way that’s understated and entirely listenable. “C’mon Day” might be the worst, all Everclear-tribute-band-sounding with lead singer Brian Langan doing an Ethan Hawke-in-Reality Bites grunt thing that gets old before it starts.
Much of Blueberry Winter is forgettable; either the ideas are good but short (the minute-long joys of “Yub-Yub” and “What Place of Man”) or they’re garage-sloppy La’s/Lemonheads cues (“Depth Charge”) that just don’t go anywhere. Maybe these songs come alive on stage; on record they’re mostly flat and dull, unraveling like a big ball of ugly yarn.