If you haven’t given Swimsuit Addition’s Wretched Pinups a listen you’re missing out on one of the best albums of the year. When I say that, I’m not speaking purely from the confines of the Chicago music scene but the entirety of music released this year. For fans of Riot Grrl, grunge, alternative, and well, mostly anyone who grew up in the ’90s.
While the album is not 100% new content from the band (four tracks are collected from previously released singles) it flows as if they had planned it this way all along.
The opening keyboard piece is an unexpected intro for those familiar with Swimsuit Addition (especially their live show). It’s quickly juxtaposed by the brash guitar and snare hits of “Atheists”, a definite “classic” in the band’s catalog.
“I Turn to Art” is another track that I’ve had in heavy rotation since I first heard it. It fits right in with the tone of the album and is still a highlight every time it comes on.
Always a high point of any live performance is “TNT”, a seemingly mellow number that explodes into a raucous chorus out of nowhere and back into a slow refrain. Originally a B-side, “Tiara” once again follows “TNT” on the full length album. It’s hard not to love the line “you’re so fucking pretty I wanna eat your face” especially when it’s belted out like a bull horn.
This is where the album really kicks in. “BOP IT” is a quick two-minutes of energetic outbursts and guitar riffs. It’s incredible.
“Will You Plug Us In?” is bit more light-hearted. It’s a bouncy pop tune that takes over right where bands like Tiger Trap left off in the early ’90s, except a little rougher around the edges. The 4 part harmonies at the end are heavenly.
A few songs into the B-side of this cassette release sits the track “Sandman”. The song slowly reveals itself with some gentle keys and acoustic guitar, harkening back to the album’s opener “Wretched”. It takes the tempo of the album down quite a bit at first but picks up at the half-way point and jumps right back into the Swimsuit Addition sound we’ve come to love. It’s tracks like these that delve beneath the surface of the band’s punk exterior to reveal four incredible songwriters who take their art very seriously.
“Talk is Cheap” is accented by some lovely glockenspiels and a walking bass line that makes this another standout on the album. The contrasting vocal harmonies are enough to keep me going until Sleater-Kinney finally gets back together.
Comparisons aside, Swimsuit Addition tend to wear their influences on their sleeve but they aren’t afraid of throwing them out the window either.
As the album begins to wind down, the catchy guitar intro to “Teeth” charges in. If it were a little faster and whinier it might easily turn into a pop-punk tune but it’s too damn heavy for that.
They truly saved the best for last. The album’s closer “The Uncanny Valley” is a brilliant end to an already incredible album. The band pulls out all of the stops on this one, with layers of guitars and synth melodies on top of a fast-driving drum beat. It’s pretty damn danceable if you ask me.
And with a gentle bit of swirling guitars, the album comes to a close.
It’s a short affair but one that sticks with you. It’s a culmination of what the band has accomplished up until this point. Wretched Pinups reminds me why I fell in love with Swimsuit Addition in the first place and leaves me wanting more and more. It’s been out since June, but if you still haven’t picked up a copy head over to bandcamp for the digital download. If you’re lucky you might still be able to snag a limited edition screen-printed cassette from Berserk Records.
September 24th at Door No. 3 (downstairs of Double Door) in Chicago, IL
October 20th at The Empty Bottle in Chicago, IL