Not exactly staking out new territory but rather further refining Swearing at Motorists' craft, the drum and guitar duo's third full-length album is not quite as strong overall as 2000's Number Seven Uptown, but the band reaches comparable if not higher high points. This Flag Signals Goodbye signals goodbye to longtime drummer Don Thrasher. Filling his seat behind the skins for this album is Joseph Siwinski. The band's sound pretty much remains the same despite the shift but, after all, the drums have always primarily been just a support tool for Doughman's bare-bones style of storytelling, and that remains the case here. The album-opening "Over the Middle Bridge" is a classic Doughman mini-anthem about running into an old (girl)friend, and, clocking in at just over two minutes, it's maybe the best example of his talent for compression, invoking a fully formed back-story with just a few details. "Doors Are Closing" begins with the lines, "There are lots of things I don't care about/None of them is you," revealing the bemused sensitive guy in Doughman that often plays foil to his wasted wildman act displayed elsewhere. Hands down, "Borrowed Red Bike" is the best track on the album, combining these two sides of his persona. It begins with a sullen, wandering-drunk tale and ends in a fist-pumping soaring coda. But then there are tracks like "Anything You Want," which seems like an unexplored fragment tossed off during practice, and "Losing Mine," which crosses the line over into corny territory (a line Swearing at Motorists is never afraid to toe) with lyrics like "all I want for Christmas is you." Maybe not the place to start with Swearing at Motorists, but This Flag Signals Goodbye is still a good portrait of a rock band honing its skills within its self-imposed sonic confines, and a gifted songwriter coming into his own.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Jason Nickey