3 out of 5
Label: Secretly Canadian
Produced by: Brian McTear, Dave Doughman
The simple guitar and drums setup of Swearing at Motorists, and Dave Doughman’s penchant for short, poppy rock tunes and use of only a few different song “modes” – sad, serious, or silly – makes it seemingly as easy to discuss the band’s entire discography as just boiling it down to that description. Of course, it’s more nuanced than that… except when it isn’t.
This Flag Signals Goodbye is the most Swearing at Motorists of the Swearing at Motorists releases, in that it has, quite exactly, been boiled down to the above. With the switch to a new drummer (Joseph Siwinski), and Brian McTear assisting on production, the ramshackle nature of previous albums feels gone; the rock conversation between Doughman and previous drummer Don Thrasher now sounds like riffs handed over to a session player. Dave’s clear-eyed, casual observations now have a more self-aware quality to them, down to the advertising jingle taint of “Anything You Want.”
But at the same time, this undeniably sounds like SAM: Dave’s song construction is familiar and immediately catchy, and he stumbles across effective simple phrases in his lyrics on the regular. Toward album’s end some gems emerge, but it suddenly seems odd that we’re without the short instrumental ditties that’ve popped up on other albums; even though those were generally the weak links, their lack is suggestive of how this feels overly cleaned up to be a “proper” album.
And it is – and not a bad one, by some kind of baseline standards – but it’s lacking in the charms that I’ve previously found when Doughman has tried to translate his energetic stage persona to the studio.