Pete Swanson – Punk Authority album review

If the classic boxy desktop computers that emitted a dial tone while you were on the Internet ever recorded their death rattles and then an ex-hardcore punk rocker decided it would be a good idea to run through a synthesizer and combine with a semi-rhythmic drum machine, you would have the fundamentals of Pete Swanson’s latest project, Punk Authority, a four track effort from the Portland, Oregon based performer which showcases his unique musical range. At a little over thirty minutes long, the collection may seem brief at first but the album begins to drag on as if trudging through a pit of the most foul sludge, similar to the grungy baselines which permeate the whole album. Wild electronic improvisations, strange computerized noises and sounds that hardware typically only makes for errors characterize the vast majority of the new EP and at times it seems like Swanson is trying to force the listener to change the music if only so their brain can rest briefly.

On songs like “C.O.P.”, Swanson has an almost fully developed beat at points, a new step for him in terms of making music accessible to a wider audience, even bringing in a high pitched almost siren like synth at one point that wouldn’t sound out of place on the latest track from Dillon Francis, and yet the driving inspiration behind the sound is a grungy combination of garage rock and emo dubstep. The ominous moan of the bass line never ceases and listeners are never given a break from the caustic beats and droning low end present throughout most of the album. This approach is a relatively new one for Swanson who as half of the duo Yellow Swans put out a blend of music that can only be described as if you somehow harnessed the raw energy and emotions associated with punk and processed the mixture through a computer applied sine wave.

The album shifts into a whole gear however on the closing track “Life Ends at 30.” With a distorted pulsing bass line that would be at home in a night club, albeit de-fuzzed a bit, Swanson seems to be producing a much more traditional electronic track and we are left to wonder what Swanson intends for listeners to interpret from the cryptic song title and radical style departure. Perhaps the artist is making a statement about our artistic lives having definite stages, perhaps he is introducing the newest Pete Swanson to the world, or perhaps he is just advancing the classic punk ethos of pushing something to the furthest boundaries of where it can go.

The album itself, while largely forgettable, does showcase an interesting take on the intersection of punk mentalities and electronic music which could indicate interesting things in Swanson’s (possible) future.

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