If you Google Louden Swain you’ll find a few links about “Vision Quest,” a movie released in 1985 that chronicles one point in a high school wrestler’s life where he has to do something significant.
Picture the “Karate Kid,” but replace the karate gi with a Spandex leotard and the Japanese headband with wrestling headgear, and you’re on target.
The similarly named Los Angeles band Louden Swain’s new album, “A Brand New Hurt,” wrestles with the same idea.
And though it has significantly fewer 1980s workout montages (I counted exactly zero), Louden Swain does offer inspiration.
But exactly what they are trying to get across is lost in the vague, and at times, ineffectual lyrics.
In “Election Day” the band makes such non-essential observations as, “What will anger do? When the wish comes true, in theory.”
In trying to figure out Louden Swain’s message, the work you’d have to do deciphering their cryptic references wouldn’t be worth the payoff.
The musicality of the songs, however, is somewhat redeeming. In arguably their best track on the album, “Alright,” the pitch and musical composition change, adding a soulfulness to the song.
The first album track, “Better,” tells us that just because we were accidentally conceived and subsequently raised in a violent home, things can get better, “Cause better’s what you got.”
“What you need you already possess, Grasshopper,” which is probably what the song really means.
“Better” sounds new and fun—the snare drum trots along to stammering guitar chords and gives the song a slow, but upbeat tempo.
The chorus comes in at about 30 seconds and reveals an older rock sound from the early to mid-90’s.
In fact, most of the songs on “A Brand New Hurt” are upbeat, and the simple rhymes embedded in their lyrics make the songs easy to sing, and almost catchy.
If you love the squeaky guitar crooning of Jack Johnson, then check out “Medicated.” For the Blues Traveler fan, there’s “Poptart Heart,” and you will hear a little Green Day in “Downtown Letdown.”
The apparent differences between tracks could be that the band has a diverse group of influences.
Another reason could be that after eight years of playing Hollywood’s more lukewarm spots, Louden Swain is left with a pathological attempt at wide appeal.
It takes real sacrifice to create a true and unique musical identity amongst all the white noise of Los Angeles bands.
I don’t think Louden Swain has made that sacrifice, despite being among the lineup of groups that has been around for almost a decade.
“A Brand New Hurt” is good for a couple of things—it would be a great album to work out to, whether or not you like to wear spandex and headgear.
Also, if you’d like to hopelessly confuse friends with which ‘90s rock band you’ve got in the stereo, this CD is perfect.
Best of all, on hard days or long car rides, the happy vibe and honest attempt at good music, might be just the thing that makes you feel good.
Who cares about a message anyway?