The Centre Will Hold
by Sara Huguenard
There is an interesting faction bubbling around the surface of the Portland, Oregon music scene. It is a combination of 80’s goth, 70’s / 80’s punk and 90’s riot grrrl influence combined with a desire to push boundaries. Swan Island is among the leaders of this movement’s charge and may well be one of the groups that defines this new genre in the public eye.
That said, the their first album, The Centre Will Hold, while not a complete disappointment, does fall short, possibly having lacked…maybe the word is range…because there was just so much potential here. The band’s individual members’ heavy 80’s influences are extremely prominent throughout all of its pieces. Led by Brisa Gonzalez’s powerful alto vocals, which are likely to pull references to some of the most influential singers of their eras (Siouxsie Sioux, Exene Cervenka), the sound is unmistakable…early goth, basic in its melodies and with a strong feel of experimental, which unfortunately--and herein where the problem lies--20 odd years after the fact makes it seem almost too “been there, done that.”
But at times there is more to it than that, something that can be heard particularly during the songs "Crumble" and "Home," where the band reaches beyond that “comfort zone” to incorporate other inspiration. And it is in these compositions where the music really succeeds in crushing the mundane, grabbing the listener and forcing them to take notice.
Ultimately there are a couple of things that the listener will want to consider with this band. The first of which is how the current 80’s music revival suits their taste. But even if it doesn’t (which for me it decidedly does not), one should take into account their receptiveness to something different--for when their game is on, Swan Island most undeniably are. There is a lot of promise to be had here, so at the very least Swan Island is a group that should be watched. For as they too likely have a lot of exploring to do in their own rite, the listener is enticed by the intrigue of discovering this group’s true potential in the coming years.
More on Swan Island: www.swanislandlove.com / www.myspace.com/swanisland.