Power trios have dominated the ranks of rock’s new front line, particularly on the indie circuit, in recent years and this bevy of new outfits are taking aim at some form of mainstream success and recognition. Green Bay, Wisconsin’s Sweetalk has a better chance than most of reaching great critical and commercial heights. They are following up their 2015 first full length album Picturesque with a condensed five song EP entitled Mutiny. The title is apt. This is a brawling, bruising affair giving listeners a variety of musical looks while holding onto a consistency Sweetalk maintains over the course of the EP. They have tremendous energy, but the sharpness of their songwriting is an equally impressive part of their attack. Sweetalk’s songwriting has spirited intelligence firing every track and Mutiny ends up coming off as a statement of purpose about this band’s ability to stick around.
The pounding drums and jagged guitar lines opening “Ghosts & Flesh Wounds” hit listeners with such velocity that the EP catapults you headlong into their world. This is remarkably energetic music that never comes close to sounding off the rails and, instead, maintains a tight lock on the groove. Jamie Koebe’s guitar work and vocals alike are the defining elements of each track and his largely orchestral approach to the six string doesn’t limit him from throwing lightning bolt like leads across the surface of many songs. Bassist Travis Grahn and drummer Brian Boelter team for an impressive rhythm section and give Koebe a flexible and consistent foundation for his contributions. “Anatomically Speaking” features some careening, discordant guitar playing that gives the song an appealingly skewed quality, but the control in Koebe’s vocal strikes a notable contrast against the arrangement. The best riffing on the EP comes with “Annie Maul” and it has a dynamic juxtaposition with comparatively muted verses. Songs like this performance illustrate the depth of interplay existing between these three musicians.
“Indecisions & Distractions” continues the band’s tradition of personal songwriting coupled with blistering or highly colorful guitar driven passages. The rhythm section, once again, brings a hefty undertow to the track. It’s the EP’s apparent centerpiece with a nearly six and a half minute duration, but the song never feels like a guest who’s stayed too long and every musical turn serves an ultimate purpose. Their talent for evocative titles continues with the closer “Fractions & Nosebleeds” and they nail the atmospheric vibe they are pursuing. It’s one of Koebe’s best vocals on the EP and makes full use of the arrangement’s dramatic possibilities. Sweetalk is one of those bands that, even in these diminished times for the genre, seem marked for some level of widespread fame. Their hunger to play and express themselves is unmistakable. They bring a full wave of fury with this release, but it’s shaped by nuanced hands unerringly aimed for accomplishing two goals – physically engaging listeners and provoking their thought. Mutiny is a first class release from a band destined for even brighter tomorrows.
by Lydia Hillenburg