Published Jun 12, 2019New Swears have a reputation. They've demolished their homes and themselves in pursuit of the partiest music video, declared war on giving a fuck, and built personas and stage shows to sit atop the throne as Canada's princes of having a good time. They put sleepy Ottawa on the map — or tried to, anyway — with rowdy dispatches from the heights of the Peace Tower and the deepest depths of Hull. It was all done with a DIY work ethic and an acute awareness of their image, and although they had to have pissed off a bunch of people along the way, to classify them as a band of ne'er-do-well punks sells them short. Now, what happens when the fun boy clubhouse grows up?
Night Mirror is an evolution that's not unexpected, but still feels significant. While you once could have reasonably written off New Swears as a party-boy gimmick act, nowadays they've fully graduated from country- and punk-tinged power pop to dip their toes in unabashed dad rock.
The spirit is the same, though: It's Blue Rodeo with a potty mouth; Dire Straits with an attitude; Tom Cochrane as a couch crasher; the Eagles in ratty sleeveless denim; the Allman Brothers Band shotgunning cans of PBR. Songs like "Concrete Cowboy," "Wheels" and "Everybody Dies" have the same leisurely Canadiana of Reconstruction Site, and you can find New Swears on the other side of the Weakerthans' coin: not an embodiment of earnestness and poetic sincerity, but a vulgar, performatively exaggerated version of themselves for entertainment and mythology.
The shtick isn't obnoxious, but actually endearing. Night Mirror isn't about a Sandy Hill house party with people peeing off the roof, riding empty 24s down the stairs and lighting trash on fire; it's more like an evening getting unobtrusively drunk with a few mates at the local watering hole or on your friend's porch. It's a Letterkenny episode manifested as a rock'n'roll record, and they're "just a couple Ontario boys kickin' back."
It's got pedal steel solos, breezy harmonica and overt callbacks to Lou Reed ("Bon Voyage") and Bob Dylan ("Rolling Stone"). They daydream about the open road but always return to the comfort of the place they know best. While they might travel "from Halifax to Golden, BC," they end up in the same place, and their connection with home remains strongm, with references to Ottawa's Greyhound bus station, Gladstone Avenue and Bells Corners, possibly the city's most overlooked suburb. There are bits of funky bass on "Mambo #6" and campy '80s synth-pop on "Jesus Take the Wheel" and "Angel," but for the most part Night Mirror sticks to its campfire feel.
New Swears obviously think about more than just partying, even if that's not what their reputation would have you believe. They definitely like to cut loose, but the band are premised almost entirely on that one facet of life. Most performance art (if you care to call it that) is more complex — even Andrew W.K.'s persona was so opaque that the conspiracy theories questioning his entire existence went on for years before he eventually evolved into basically a full-blown philosopher — but it's not usually this fun, easy-going and all-around pleasant. The boys in New Swears are human, of course, but the band have always been about one thing: having a good time. So enjoy. (Dine Alone)