Happy Anarchy

The Sweathogs

Independent release, 2000

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 11/25/2000

I don't quite know what to make of The Sweathogs -- and I sure ain't talkin' about the ragtag group of misfits that were featured on Welcome Back, Kotter.

No, this time I'm referring to a collective of musicians based in Staten Island, New York. Their latest EP, Happy Anarchy, dares to fly in the face of musical standards and established beliefs, mixing rock, funk and pure disrespect into four songs. It's kind of a lot to take in during one sitting - yet it's not quite enough to really form a solid opinion about vocalist Matt Ryan and crew.

It's not that this CD is bad in any sense of the word; these four tracks show off a band whose potential is clearly shown. But the difficulty will be getting people to give this crew a chance - and the amalgam of musical styles they bring to the table, if not to each song, might frighten some people.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Take the title track of this disc. Running from swing-jazz with touches of folk to harder, ska-tinged rock (thanks to the utilization of a horn section) to a more powerful rock-fortified bridge (why does the tempo drop a notch here?), even daring to go to a pop-rock close... I mean, that's a lot to digest in four-and-a-half minutes. It's impressive that a band can accomplish this without everything going to pieces, but it might be a sign that The Sweathogs are trying too hard to impress their audience.

Simplicity, indeed, might be the key for this band - and the very next song, "Do You Remember," illustrates this. A slight mixture of funk-rock with a swinging beat to it, this is the kind of groove that could assure this band would be remembered by its audience, and is a definite highlight of the disc. Likewise, "Glass Box" is a pleasant slice of pop sensibility that is satisfying on several levels. If I had to pick one song for a single from this disc, "Glass Box" would be it.

The final track of Happy Anarchy, "Whatever," gives The Sweathogs the chance to totally cut loose after two songs of relative self-control. This time around, though, that giving in to abandon works well for the group, going from funk-based rock to an all-out speed-rock jam. In the end, this track turns out to be a lot of fun - and you end up liking the track, despite your misgivings.

So why do I feel the jury is still out for The Sweathogs and Happy Anarchy? Simple: I'd like to hear a little more consistency from this band, preferrably in the form of a longer disc. (Memo to the band: Yes, I'm aware you have a full-length disc available on CDBaby... and there's your free plug.) There is great potential I hear in this group, though I think, like a fine wine, they need to age and mature (musically, I mean) a little bit before they're ready for the big-time. That's not meant to be a knock against them - and I think in time The Sweathogs will most definitely be one of the bands in the New York area to watch closely. Until then, Happy Anarchy offers a small glimpse of just what might be to come from them.

Rating: B-

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