Pierre Omer’s Swing Revue – Tropical Breakdown LP

Pierre Omer’s Swing Revue
Tropical Breakdown LP
(Voodoo Rhythm Records)
Ever since Swing Kids came out in 1993 featuring a cast of very talented dancers, hipsters have wanted to revive swing music and dancing and make it their own. The reasoning for that desire is really easy to understand; the music is wildly infectious even without the benefit of distortion pedals, and the gymnasts who dance to it in the movies make it look REALLY fun to do. The catch is that swing dancing looking fun in the movies is very different from trying to throw a woman around on a dance floor – many women will play around with a lot of ideas, but trusting some shmuck to catch them while they fly through the air with the greatest of ease is not one of them. What often happens at swing shows is a lot of very well-dressed people stand around very still and awkwardly, and watch the band play. Happily though, the bands tend to be pretty good and, on their new album, Tropical Breakdown, Pierre Omer’s Swing Revue fits right in with that tradition.

As soon as “Atomic Swing” opens the A-side of Tropical Breakdown, listeners will be simultaneously stunned and excited. Right away, the ghosts of Johnny Favourite Swing Orchestra, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Brian Setzer Orchestra and Royal Crown Revue all manifest in perfectly clear view but, rather than trying to find a way to repel against such comparisons, somehow, Pierre Omer’s Swing Revue leans into any comparisons that any listener could make. Why? Presumably, they’re doing it because they know that no one else is trying anything similar right now so, when the trombone and trumpet blast into the mix with som great, tight lines, the results move at a pace which drips with a self-satisfaction that is impossible to miss and would be impossible to excuse in any other situation – but plays incredibly well here because the musicians know what they’re doing and so dare any detractors to complain. The exact same thing plays true on “Give Me The Groove” and the deliberately contrarian “It Doesn’t Sound (The Way It Should)” – which both stick tightly to form and really illustrate that the band is able to overcome novelty and hold listeners’ interest while playing within a well-established musical paradigm. Some listeners will claim that the album’s title track and “L’amour a la plage” (“Love On The Beach” for readers who don’t speak French) stand above and beyond those aforementioned cuts because they take that all-important step past orthodoxy (the tempo on the title track increases more than just a bit to bring the band into the realm of Flat Duo Jets and the Ren & Stimpy soundtrack, while “L’amour a la plage” pulls in the opposite direction, slows down and somehow comes off as disconcertingly ominous). When “Zanzibar sets a warbling horn part up in front of a mid-tempo and completely self-assured neo-lounge number, listeners will have no difficulty relaxing into the end of the side and may actually have to battle back a desire to make a celebratory cocktail before flipping the record over to see where the album’s B-side will take them, when the needle lifts.

Surprisingly, the B-side of Tropical Breakdown doesn’t brim with urgency in order to succour listeners into the same kind of energy that opened the album but, rather, continues with the moodier energy that closed the album’s A-side. Throughout “Get Down On Your Knees,” listeners are made to feel every sardonic second of the song’s three-minute running; brushed snares do keep the song’s energy up nicely, but the bass feels a little muted and the sardonic refrain of “Down on your knees and pray” throughout the lyric sheet feels more like a command at a BDSM club than something one would expect to hear at a concert. Happily, “Just One Kiss” is able to recover the energy lost the side was changed initially and, while it’s the only real uptempo cut, the musical B-12 shot that the song represents sustains the side until “Swing Street” makes a cutesy play to close the album on a warm and bright note – even if it is far slower of tempo than most would hope for. In that end, the band endeavours to go bar-hopping (“I don’t want to die sober” is the claim made by the cut’s chanteuse) but doesn’t really have their hearts in it as images shift instead to sharing coffee and long, romantic gazes. It is, needless to say, not the way that listeners who have run from front-to-back with Tropical Breakdown would end, but it is a conclusion in which it’s still possible to find satisfaction. [Bill Adams]


Tropical Breakdown is out now. Buy it here, directly from Pierre Omer’s Swing Revue’s bandcamp page.

Bill Adams is Editor-in-Chief of Ground Control Mag.