Sweep the Leg Johnny

Going Down Swingin'

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Chicago band Sweep the Leg Johnny's Going Down Swingin' is one of the rare instances where hyper-aggressive, angular math rock (though that's a term gone unused for some time) is complimented by breath-spoken vocals and 15-minute-mark opuses actually worth a second listen. The opening track, "Sometimes My Balls Feel Like Tits," combines the fierce dynamic that made bands like Slint sound so revolutionary with the stop-change smarts of Polvo and the unmistakable presence of Steve Sostak on vocals and alto sax. For this album, their fourth, Mitch Cheney of Rumah Sakit joins on second guitar, adding the density needed to play off Sostak's dominating horn. Songs like "Only a Rerun" approach a more traditional post-hardcore song structure with gratuitous pick-slides and flashy showmanship. Others, like "The One That Goes Boom" and "The Blizzard of '99," use the chords and transitions deemed melodies only by rock fans who dug a serious amount of Sonic Youth or, alternately, prog rock. Strange, and worse, is the tendency for chimey dual guitars to turn the constantly touring, sweaty, and aggressive Sweep the Leg Johnny into teary-eyed emo boys ("J. Daly's Message to Jacob and Sylvia" and "Rest Stop"). Gratuitous, maybe, and still ambitious after thousands of live dates and three under-the-radar albums, Sweep the Leg Johnny remains one of the most intense, unpretentious bands of their lot, Chicago or otherwise.

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