Glasgow's How to Swim are a band who have never shied away from the audacious. Their ambitious stream of orchestral rock is...well...batshit crazy. As soon as they sent over a track for my Glass of Scotch Compilation I knew 'Retina' would be anything but a boring affair. Said track happened to be opener 'Diego Whirlwind' which sets the album off on a dark and epic note. 'Inferiority' and lead single 'High School Apocalypse' have a happier tone to them (while having equally surreal/dark content matter) using strong guitar hooks to lull you into a false sense of the ordinary... and then comes the orchestra and they grab you by the scruff of the neck. 'Genesis P and Me' is a manic affair with a mish-mash of influences being fused into a wonderful, wonderful mess. This epitomizes what How to Swim do best, make crazy tunes that somehow you can relate to and enjoy. My favourite track on 'Retina' is 'From Here To Dundee Slash Eternity'. It is delicately constructed and patiently built up with lead singer Ink Wilson's voice so strong and earnest that it is hard not to sit up and think 'what the fuck, this is brilliant'. The female vocals of 'False' serve as a tranquil rest-bite and interval to the final half of the record which features the darkly humorous 'Ink Wilson's World of Fear' and the excellently croontastic closer 'It's Alright'.
How to Swim always aim high but with 'Retina' they have really caught their stride. Combing ambitious and patience while always conscience of how big they can go before the listener becomes exhausted. The quieter moments set upon a backdrop of stadium sized tunes really makes 'Retina'. A completely crazy listen but a genuinely worthwhile one.
Retina is available now from their bandcamp page. Crackin' artwork too.