Let me say this: I fucking love this album.
It operates at a different pace, occupying (thus forcing you to occupy) a different headspace. It took a couple of listens to click but holy shit am I glad that it did. It's bass heavy (songs like Snow sound incredible played loud) and minimal when it needs to be. It's bleak but never overwhelmingly so, even though Slow will leave you gasping for the remaining air in your lungs. I am intimate with its hooks, it's an intimate album, a dreamy kind of nightmare. I mean nothing, not even the good stuff (especially not the good stuff) is straightforward.
- William Caston Cook of The 405 Listening Club
The project SWOLL, led by Matt Dowling, bassist of many DC bands over the last decade (Deleted Scenes, the EFFECTS, Paperhaus, Joy Buttons), is a re-appropriation of the pop culture term.
The term "swoll" is generally thought of as a pop culture reference to bodybuilders, or “muscle dudes.” It’s a derivative of the word “swollen.” So the muscle dude, who spends 4 hours a day at the gym, and may or may not be on steroids, looks like he’s a swollen version of a normal human being.
In Dowling’s eyes, we’re all SWOLL in 2018. We’re swoll with e-mail, we’re swoll with social media, we’re swoll with real news, we’re swoll with fake news, we’re swoll with TV, we’re swoll with music, we're swoll with food, we’re swoll with dating websites…in 2018, we’re all swoll AF in our own way.
When you’re swoll, you might look really good in the moment, but ultimately "being swoll" contains a type of sadness. It describes a constant striving towards an unattainable ideal; a zen state where you love yourself for your abs, or your productivity, or your creativity, AND EVERYONE ELSE DOES TOO.
Dowling's song “Stars” is a cover of sorts of Kraftwerk’s “Hall of Mirrors.” In the original version of the song, Kraftwerk sings “Even the greatest stars, discover themselves in the looking glass.”
Today, selfies happen as often as breathing. We not only love to look at ourselves in the "looking glass," we now want others to love us looking at ourselves.
“'Hall of Mirrors' is quite possibly my favorite song of all time," says Dowling. "This is probably because its depth of meaning seems to take on even more depth, and yet somehow new, broader applicability to everyday life, as history has unfolded since the song was recorded.”
Dowling changes the words slightly to “Even the greatest stars, find themselves in walls built from who they are.” This concept relates to our current swoll-selves cultivating more “stars” than has ever been possible. People with tons of eyes on them…..ACTUALLY MEASURABLE eyes…..Instagram models with 10,000+ followers, 100,000+ followers….what do the numbers mean? Anything?
We can’t all fake it ‘til we make it. Or can we? Is being SWOLL good? Or bad? We’re not all vain, right? Everyone is working their ass off on something……but does everyone need to see everyone working their ass off to know it’s true? Dowling doesn’t present any of these realities as either good or bad, but rather just observes it. However, the observation results in a much darker emotion than a bright one.