"He's Very Good At Swimming" is definitely The Empty Page's darkest track to date and one that stares at aspects of modern culture down the barrel of a gun.
Never one to shy away from tackling the uncomfortable and unfortunate truths we face, the band use the song as an exploration of the media's obsession with rape culture, where victims are shamed and vilified and perpetrators have their lives great achievements listed as a shield and reason to why they could never do such a horrible thing (hence the songs unusual title).
The band excel themselves on this single, their second batch of new material since 2016's "Unfolding" album, the trio showing their growth and musical chops quite naturally while still remaining true to their roots. The band draw from 80's and 90's alternative guitar Pop-Punk with influences like Husker Du, Fugazi and PJ Harvey coming to the forefront. Kel's hypnotic Post-Punk bass pins the melody allowing, Jim's laid back drums to add colour as Giz picks at his guitar through the verses and both of them adding the relevance menace to the song as it builds, the guitars cutting and tearing against the rhythm like the song's victim.
Speaking of menace, the lyrics for the verses are sparse and you could almost imagine them being written by Ian Curtis or Bret Easton Ellis, short bursts of clinical observation before an explosion of emotion in the aftermath of the event. It's raw and feels incredibly uncomfortable, like the media exploration/exploitation of some of these cases. Kel's voice is the perfect medium, soft melodies luring you into a sense of safety before dripping with anger and grief.
There's always comments that there aren't enough artists tackling almost taboo subjects but there are. Mass media continues to direct your attention to what they want you to know. Allow artists to speak in their own voices and you end up with songs like Amanda Palmer's "Voicemail For Jill" (a grim meditation on abortion rights) and this. We need artists like The Empty Page to keep speaking up, no matter how awkward the subject matter. It means the right voices aren't being silenced, it means artists are doing the right thing. "He's Very Good At Swimming" is the perfect vessel of an unsettling tale delivered under the guise of perfect melody and, remember, it's not just a feminist issue, it's a humanist one.
Website - www.theemptypageband.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/thmptypg/
Review - Scott Hamilton