by Jonathan Bannister (@j_utah)
If Lady Bones falls on the heavy side of the Boston scene then Theo Hartlett’s solo project Flat Swamp falls on the poppy side. The guitars are still overdriven, but the melodies entice the ears with bounce instead of a pummeling submission. Written and recorded in 2013, By All Means is his third EP and is a near fatal dose of hooks in concentrated form. Right about the end of opener "I Don’t Know You Baby" you’ll start thinking Flat Swamp shares a lineage with the sound of early Weezer that you keep holding out hope will return but you know those days are gone.
While it might be smooth going down, don’t mistake any of it for light, easy filler. The pop of the music coats the murkier content of the lyrics. The album’s first line “A hard life to say the least” sets up the rest of the album’s lyrical content, but the music keeps the darkness of the lyrics from corrupting the entire package. This is music as a scabbed over wound that hasn’t quite healed. “Oh won’t you stay? But I’m in the way, And I feel so lame” he sings on "By All Means," not putting up much of a fight. If Iggy Pop and company are the post-pop depression, then Flat Swamp are the pop depression, nothing post about it.
The opening lines of “Don’t Count on Me” are instantly recognizable. “Settle down, pace around and fall asleep. Another day, nothing’s changed, nothing on tv. And all my focus is gone. So I’ll fix a drink, smell defeat and I’m out again.” Like looking at the pages of your own journal. Some might think given the current national climate that it runs the risk of being too inward and self-focused. But as much as we care about the bigger picture our lives are played out on the personal level. We might fear “out there” but it’s always our relationships, jobs, and our own lives that are the immediate concern. Trump may end up the President, but there’s still nothing on TV.