According to someone nearby, Richard Swift’s band look like they’ve just come off a trawler – the sort of image I aspire to, obviously. They sound, however, quite different: at this point, uncannily like a soul harmony group, somewhere between The Miracles and The Stylistics.

According to someone nearby, Richard Swift’s band look like they’ve just come off a trawler – the sort of image I aspire to, obviously. They sound, however, quite different: at this point, uncannily like a soul harmony group, somewhere between The Miracles and The Stylistics.



This is “Lady Luck”, the last song on Richard Swift’s new album, “The Atlantic Ocean”, which I blogged about last week, and the last song the four-piece play at this excellent Club Uncut show. Swift has stepped out from behind his piano and has also relinquished his usual droll, Nilsson-ish baritone. Instead, he’s stalking around, letting rip in an extraordinary falsetto. There are times when it seems Richard Swift is capable of turning his hand to anything, until you remember one or two of his fractionally misfiring side-projects.

Mostly, though, he is content to channel his powers into rollicking piano man balladry and some surprisingly beefy, Lennonish rockers. Once “Lady Luck” is done, Swift returns to the stage alone and plays “Ballad Of You Know Who”, from his last album, “Dressed Up For The Letdown”. Sat at the piano, by the end of it he’s singing through a harmonica; a creaky, effective old-time equivalent to autotune.

“Ballad Of You Know Who” is a rare old song in a set heavy on “The Atlantic Ocean”, an album which improves with more or less every play. The multi-tasking band mean that Swift can switch between the keening rockers like “Ballad Of Old What’s His Name” and the strange, catchy synth-assisted songs pretty smoothly. For “The Original Thought”, his confidently striding piano is tracked by two arcane synth sounds: a raspberryish bass frequency; and a ditzy, melodious one which could have come off an old Chicory Tip record, or at least a Go-Kart Mozart one.

There’s a similar set-up for the pounding, insistent “Atlantic Ocean” itself, endemic of Swift’s gushing songwriting style, one that doesn’t bother too much with distinguishing between verses and choruses. It’s this structural quirk that makes these songs at once comfortingly traditional and slightly odd – even great ballads like “Looking Back I Should Have Been Home More”, redolent tonight of early Tom Waits, perhaps.

A terrific show, anyhow. Check over at our live reviews blog for a report on the support bands, The Leisure Society and First Aid Kit