Shamblin Sexton reviews the new Cody Jinks album, Lifers, released on Rounder Records
It may be nearly 6000 miles between Jönköping, home to Swedish band Svvamp, and Hemosa Beach, California, where RidingEasy records is based, and no doubt the weather couldn't be more different, but despite the distance there's clearly a strong affinity linking the ethos of this band and the record label that signed them. Long-time friends Adam Johansson, Henrik Bjorklund and Erik Stahlgren were drawn together by a love of jamming the type of fuzz heavy blues rock that was all the rage in the early 1970s. If you've checked out any of the RidingEasy compilations, Brown Acid (a series focusing on rare as hen’s teeth hard rock and heavy psych, now on its 6th trip), then you might understand that this is a match made in heaven.
Justas the Brown Acid series features an array of private-pressed and self-released underground rock music from way back when, so there's a definite homespun quality to the kind of music Svvamp make. The band’s first album was self-recorded on a 4-channel cassette deck and their second album continues very much where the previous one left off, despite the band having indulged in the decadent luxury of recording on a 6-track system. Oversized mixing desks aren't really needed here, though, as this is music that keeps things nice and simple. Eschewing unnecessary bells and whistles for a classic sound that is simultaneously heavy and rocking, yet lazy and loping, Svvamp have the confidence to let their music take its time in much the same way that the music of Free refused to be hurried.
There's certainly a rollcall of classic rock influences here, from the sleazy slide guitar and Mountain-esque riffs to be heard on Queen, which could have been picked from Leslie West's extremely large pockets, to the Zeppy crunch of Hillside and the weighty Sabbath blast of Alligator, which closes the album. It's not all heavy stuff though, Sunshine Street is reminiscent of Hendrix at his most poppy and playful, while How Sweet It Would Be builds on a Canned Heat choogle, with bassist Erik Stahlgrens softer vocal approach sounding a little like Marc Bolan after a hit on some killer weed. Guitarist Henrik Bjorklund also gets to sing on the beautiful solo spot Blues Inside, too. It's usually drummer Adam Johansson who takes care of vocal duties, though, also contributing the bubbling synthesizer lines which lace Surrender, probably the most psychedelic track on Svvamp 2. It's the gritty Out of Line, though, that confirms this LP as a record for Whiskey Preachers. It has Lynyrd Skynyrd's bad boy groove written all over it and the band build up a real head of steam that is impossible to resist.
The only criticism of Svvamp 2 from me is that sometimes the vocals are a little lost in the mix. I can’t help but wonder what this band would sound like with a designated singer up front, belting out these tunes. But then again, maybe that would all be a little too showy for these guys, a band who clearly like to just get their heads down and rock. I reckon this band will be riding easy for a long time to come.