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Swingin’ Doors
Unhinged,  Swingin’ Doors CD SD51795, 1995 (31:18)

New wave goes to the country

It’s a dumb truism, but so much of popular vocal music is simply in the voice. You either take to a singer’s sound or not, and usually there’s not much to be done about it. For example, as much as I admire, and even enjoy, Neil Young’s music, his voice–on its own–just rubs me the wrong way.

Swingin’ Doors has two lead singers and songwriters. And one of them–Jenifer McKitrick–could sing the phone book in her sour plum voice and I’d listen. To my ears, it’s an instantly memorable voice. The other, Dwight Been, has a pleasant laid back countyish baritone, but lacks an edge, a beat, a something that would make it stick in my ear. The songs on  Unhinged are pretty evenly divided between McKitrick and Been so, for me, it’s a fifty/fifty album.

The band is a talented quartet with a sound that mixes country folk instrumentation with new wave songs. The songs are about, yes, love and not surprisingly the best one leads off. McKitrick’s "Jaco" tells the story of a self-centered bass player. It’s a nicely-structured song, with a relaxed lilt to the beat, perfect for jukebox play in the variety of sound it manages to achieve in just over three minutes. There are some telling lines, such as "you looked so good but you lived so bad/your bass guitar is all you ever had." Stephanie Lee’s melancholy violin nicely counterpoints McKitrick’s fuzz-box Telecaster on the bridge, whose lyrics suggest that only in heaven will the two lovers both get what they need.

Then, up comes Been’s "So Pretty So Fast," where his low-key vocal fits the droll pick-up song ("I’m new to this city/darlin’ can I ask/how’d you get so pretty so fast?") Of the remaining songs, McKitrick again gets the nod in my book, with songs that have sharp lyrics and melodies that take unexpected turns. "Homeless" uses homelessness as an analogy for unrequited love. "I Came Down" has a riff reminiscent of Edie Brickell’s never-live-it-down hit, "What I Am" as part of an interesting episodic (not your standard ABA or AABA) melody line. "Offer Me the World" acknowledges "it’s a lie anyway."

Been’s songs, like his singing, are more straightforward. You can figure out "You’re Just Her Tattoo" from its title. Of "On and On," my five-year-old daughter said "that was a cowboy song." Yep, sure was, honey.

Finally, a gentle countryish take on Blondie’s "Dreaming," with McKitrick again up front, closes the album sweetly. Fun stuff from a good band with real potential. I hope to hear from them again.–  Glenn Brooks


Jenifer McKitrick, vocals, Telecaster guitar; Dwight Been, vocals, acoustic guitar; Diane Glaub, drums; Stephanie Lee, bass, violin, background vocals.


Produced by Swingin’ Doors. Recorded and mixed by Kyle Statham, and by David Bell and Stephanie Lee.

song titles

Jaco • So Pretty So Fast • Homeless • I Came Down • You’re Just Her Tattoo • Offer Me the World • One Eye Love • On and On • Your Word Against Mine • Dreaming

where to get it

Swingin’ Doors
4104 24th St, #132
San Francisco CA 98114

Copyright © 1997 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.