- My Protector
- Swan Dive
- Between the Lines
- Before I Fall
- What's in a Name?
- Ceiling Life
The year is 1994. The Grunge movement is still going strong and little me was always trying to find new gems of the genre. Local record stores were either far too expensive or mainstream so this year marked the first time I actually bought CDs via mailorder and directly from record labels. I remember very well that my very first order was from Sub Pop and it included lots of bands I never heard of before. Back then buying music was like a lottery - no YouTube, no Spotify to preview tracks from albums. You paid, you waited weeks for the package to arrive and sometimes you were disappointed. Not with this order. It included some albums I consider classics today and one of those was Bullet Lavoltas "Swandive".
Sub Pop had a signature sound back then. First of all their whole catalogue mostly consisted of Grunge and Noise Rock bands. But it was also the production of their releases. They all shared a similar drum sound and normally it was easy to recognise a Sub Pop release. This was true for the content of above ordered package too - with the exception of "Swandive". Production on this thing is streamlined and this is no coincidence, since Dave Jerden (Alice in Chains, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Social Distortion) was resposible for the sound on this album. To this day I don't know any other album that shares the guitar and drum sound of this album.
Anyway, apart from the production, what do Bullet Lavolta actually sound like? Well, to call this a Grunge album wouldn't be accurate, yet it's definitely an album of its time. It has the melodic feel and the aggression, the hooks and spirit, yet Bullet Lavolta were no Nirvana, Pearl Jam or Soundgarden clone.
The driving force behind "Swandive" is Punk Rock at its core - yet none of the songs seem as straight forward as your typical punk tune, spiced up with lots of guitar solos and even some mellow moments. Vocalist Yukkie Gipe represents this mixture perfectly. Take My Protector, which starts with him yelling with his most raspy voice, just to deliver some grand melody work in the chorus in a much more relaxed fashion. This last aspect of his vocal performance even results in an obvious single candidate What's in a Name. Most of the time you hear him yelling though and that is a good thing. This is a Punk inspired record after all. There are moments like the into of the title song, where the album suddenly shares similarities with Jane's Addiction, another Jerden produced band and it's the mixture of all those styles, delivered at such consistent quality, that makes "Swandive" shine.
Before we conclude let's mention the guitar work again. Because it is outstanding and makes a huge part of the whole experience. Apart from the unique textures, there are rarely moments of pure powerchord riffings. It's always spiced up with little licks and leads. Again, the mixture just fits.
This album should have been a success, but it wasn't and Bullet Lavolta soon disbanded.