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[whitespace] Swearing by Jar

San Jose's Ten in the Swear Jar delivers a compelling 'Private Map' for debut CD

By David Espinoza

SOMETIMES IT'S HARD to believe that music this interesting still exists in a world increasingly dominated by cold, soulless mega-entertainment conglomerates. That being said, listeners should be forewarned that sampling San Jose's Ten in the Swear Jar's debut CD, My Very Private Map, is enough to cause minor spasms of euphoria while belting out the mantra "It's alive! It's alive!"

Composed of a few of the ex-members of the ska-punk outfit IBOPA, the five-man Ten in the Swear Jar easily blows to smithereens any notion that haunting indie-electronica rock is dead. Like its contemporaries on Up Records, Ten in the Swear Jar forges a sound that is futuristic in instrumentation and erratic in mentality. The guitars, bass and drums only play a background note to much more innovative mixtures of baritone saxophones, banjos, accordions and synths. The band never gets too excessive with its use of nontraditional toys, though, and the sound as a whole comes off as minimalistic.

One of the finest moments arrives on the third track, "Sad Girl" (it's only the second song, since the first track consists of just swearing), on which a harmonium leads into a romp of melodic sci-fi soundtrack music doused with dark fits of alt-rock angst--sort of like mixing Morphine and Portishead with the Smiths. Throughout the 11-track album, the band builds up a level of low-volume intensity that is unleashed on "Sita Deth." In a bout of Trent Reznor-like fury, bassist Jamie Stewart moves his voice back and forth from a whisper to a screech with the words "My chest burns 'cuz I'M SO TIRED! I have to say GOOD-BYE TO YOU NOW!"

Still just in the early phases of breaking out of the recording studio, Ten in the Swear Jar has the potential to be big on the college radio circuit. Given the complacency in rock music these days, the band offers a much-needed dose of fresh blood.

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From the December 2-8, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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