Tiny Moving Parts – ‘Swell’

By Paul Hazell

Within 30 seconds of clicking play, ‘Swell’ hits you with angsty vocals, harmonics and guitar tapping, setting the tone nicely for an album full of dramatic shifts, in both music and quality.

Opening track ‘Applause’ combines the melodic guitar work of their contemporaries Free Throw, with the moody hooks of peak era Yellowcard, resulting in a deeply fulfilling experience. This is Tiny Moving Parts at their best: structural chaos that unwraps into a pop punk gift. If this represented the quality throughout the album, we’d be expecting Tiny Moving Parts to be topping festival bills.

Sadly though, even though there are only ten tracks, ‘Swell’ meanders aimlessly in parts. The math rock noodling that is their main strength when done well, occasionally holds them back, particularly on ‘Smooth It Out’, which fades from the memory as soon as it ends. Speaking of endings, these boys seem to have a fondness for abrupt conclusions which are occasionally jarring (see us after class, ‘It’s Too Cold Tonight’) but more often than not give the record a feeling of urgency and momentum.

‘Malfunction’ ends with Dylan Mattheisen screaming “it’s a message”, and it’s easy to imagine fans putting just as much emotion into the chorus line of “resurrect my aching cells, let’s restart my ageing health”, a rare but shamelessly catchy moment reminiscent of their previous release ‘Celebrate’. The spoken lyrics of the verses strike an impressive balance between the endearingly sincere and the uncomfortably juvenile, something ‘Swell’ often struggles with. ‘Whale Watching’ has Mattheisen lamenting “I am a pond, you wanted an ocean”, presumably pulled straight from his high school poetry anthology.

Lead single ‘Caution’ builds to a devilishly infectious riff just as the chorus seems like it will hit, a move that lends extra power for when it does eventually drop after some excellent work from drummer William Chevalier. The closing track ‘Warm Hand Splash’ takes a while to get going but proves to be a highlight when it does, although the feeling that it is a little bloated and could be trimmed down is a fitting microcosm of the album itself.

It would be easy to conclude that Tiny Moving Parts are a band of great potential, destined to move on to greater things, but this is their fourth full length release and the pattern seems to be set. To paraphrase Biffy Clyro, when they hit they hit you hard, however they don’t pack a punch often enough. This isn’t the album you’d recommend to your mate from school who hasn’t listened to emo/punk in 10 years, but for those willing to get past the initial inaccessibility, tracks like ‘Malfunction’ and ‘Applause’ make the whole thing worthwhile.

PAUL HAZELL

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