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Richard Swift - Walt Wolfman EP (Secretly Canadian)

14 October 2011

Richard Swift has never been anything less than challenging. His initial introduction to the music world painted him as a superior singer-songwriter, a la Randy Newman or Harry Nilsson. Critical acclaim rightly comes his way, and he follows up this success…with poorly recorded, difficult to listen to garage rock and bizarre excursions into instrumental prog-rock. Then he drops hints and reminders of his song-writing abilities, and then…disappears down a rabbit-hole. Well, depending on how you feel about this, you’ll either find Walt Wolfman to be an enjoyable albeit typical Swiftian “challenge,” or a disappointing betrayal of his talents. As for this writer…I’m sort of in between. One one hand, “Whitman” is a 50s style pop number that is pure Swift. Then he follows it with a great-sounding Motown-like number, “MG 533,” which is ruined by utterly distorted and unintelligible vocals, which he then follows with another wonderful, 60s-inspired number with great vocals. The rest of the record follows suit, with 50s/60s-inspired pop number that have either great vocals or utterly horrid, unintelligible vocals. I like it when a musician presents music that is challenging to the listener; I’m not such a fan when they make intentionally difficult music as a middle-finger to the listener. At least you can’t say that Richard Swift is predictable—though, if he keeps it up, he will become predictable in the diminishing returns of his constantly “challenging” recordings.