Philadelphia Collins has a debut EP out, and we don’t mean the Trailer Park Boys character. Philadelphia Collins is a band composed of Devin McKnight (of Speedy Ortiz and Grass Is Green) and Theo Hartlett (Ovlov) as well as some friends who provide some lovely backup. They’re the sort of guys that after one listen you fall in love. Their music is a sort of distorted take on everyday human malaise and what it means to kickass with an instrument. Their debut, Derp Swervin is all it will take to turn you into a fan.
Philadelphia Collins’ Derp Swervin is best described as early emo revival-revival. A few years ago there was a massive boom in bands taking after the early emo and math rock days –working in a series of complex and ‘twinkly’ sounding guitar lines, as well as sentimental, modest, and honest lyrics. Derp Swervin is a little late to the show but is a great addition for those into the whole emo/math rock/post-punk scene. The album is filled with intricate melodies strung out by the guitar, solid rhythm provided by a set of drums, and some solid singing provided by a slew of guest vocalists. The album is highly enjoyable without a doubt.
The opening track, “Dogsbody,” really kicks things off with a bang. “Dogsbody,” is not only one of the most likable songs, but arguably the best on the album. The opening energy provided is an absolute blast, it’s great fun to listen to. Then, the song slow, grinding to a slow stumble. Hearing the musicians so perfectly wind down really gives you a taste of the complexities to come. The song shifts in mood a little more once again and the vocalists maintain perfectly throughout, providing a unifying layer of texture. The song is fantastic and really demonstrates Philadelphia Collins’ skill as musicians.
Without giving away too much, the rest of the album maintains the attention to detail. Time changes and textural fun, mixed with some incredibly heavy emotions. Mellow melodies mixed with the occasional outburst from an instrument or singer holds up throughout this short album. Unfortunately there are a few gripes to be held.
Derp Swervin isn’t crystal clear –that is to say, it’s another lo-fi recording. While lo-fi does have a time and place, it just seems to take away from the otherwise amazing album that the band composed. Those guitar lines would sound so much better if the album was pristine, some audiophile’s wet dream. Aside from fidelity issues, the album is also arguably uninteresting, boring, already been done. Derp Swervin really doesn’t bring anything new to the table. While at first this isn’t an issue (especially considering how awesome the album is otherwise) Derp Swervin becomes increasingly tiresome. By the last track you’ll almost be glad it’s over. Neither of these complaints invalidate the album as a whole. Derp Swervin is good, just don’t set the expectations too high.
Philadelphia Collins knocked the ball out of the park, the band made an album that’ll certainly find its way into many people’s libraries. The guitar lines, complex drum pieces, and honest vocals are everything that makes the better side of emo good. Derp Swervin is the archetypical, sentimental, “we’re really good at playing music” album and that’s rad. If you can get past the lo-fi and déjà vu, this album isn’t just a preferable listen, it’s a must listen.