Maybe it's the intense sadness that constantly seems to simmer behind the eyes of frontman Kevin McDonough; maybe it's their solitary slouch as Chicago's only viable practitioners of the sludgy punk-blues aesthetic. But for whatever reason, the Drapes haven't really gotten the respect or exposure they deserve. Swollen should change all that. McDonough, bassist Andrea Jablonksi, and latest drummer Bob Spellbring are twisting the fetid stockyard blues dynamic into spiky, slimy, and economical shapes; the guitar then chomps off the ends for McDonough's hackled vocal to spit on. It can be grimy -- "Coffee Can" lurches like a legless drunk and "Billy Bones" siphons what can only be described as vintage alternative rock through McDonough's pained rasp (Jablonski's Kim Deal backing vocals are a nice touch). Cuts like "Doll of Mine" and "Miss You" are slightly less pained, the former blending an accordion into a sort of Come-style ballad, the latter hiding one of the record's coolest, most crackling arrangements inside its allegedly innocuous shell. Opener "Jackie Bang" pays homage to one of the best names in broadcast journalism with downright nasty tone and some muscular drumming from Spellbring, while the title track is a rousing, upbeat number that nevertheless finds a way to be gloriously, ruthlessly cynical. Maybe it's that dogged sadness on McDonough's face -- he can't be happy even when the hooks are solid and his band is rocking. But even if the poor guy is channeling the music's pain like a human patch chord, he should be thanked for not giving up. With the help of ace producer Brian Deck, the Drapes get Swollen to bleed the vitality music like this needs to make it something more than solvent for the garage.
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AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus