Album Reviews – The Swimming Pool Qs, “The A&M Years”

1981, as many will remember, was a extraordinary year that Americans will never forget. ”Frankenstein” the Broadway musical,  opened and closed in eight weeks, Rita Jenrette, wife of congressman John Jenrette, posed nude in Playboy magazine, and The New York Times published the longest sentence in history, 1286 words. Oh yes, there was one more event of 81.  “The Swimming Qs,” the New Wave Atlanta based band, released their first full-length album, “The Deep End.”  By far the release of “The Deep End” had a tremendous  impact on societies, changing so many lives, tearing down the Berlin Wall, and ending Communism as we knew it.  OK, maybe I’m stretching it a bit.  However, The Swimming Pool Qs album,  ”The Deep End” was a cool collection of New Wave Pop Rock music.  In fact, Lou Reed liked the album so much he invited The Swimming Pool Qs to tour with him in 84.  Seriously, that really happened.

The release of The Swimming Pool Qs first full-length album paved the way for many very well done projects including a two year ride signed to A&M Records.   This Georgia New Wave band  began a path on their own producing some very fine music in the 1980s, creating a different tone for the South, and challenging some of the ways of the South.

Which brings us to today.  After being a pop rock band of 35 years, re-issuing “The Deep End” on a CD for the first time in 2001,  it was time to release another project.  In June 2013,   The A&M Years, a two disc set featuring their two albums produced under A&M s wing, “Q” and “Blue Tomorrow” has been released again.  Also to add some bonus material, The Swimming Pool Qs have released a third album called the “Pow Wow Hour” a collection of 17 rarities, and a DVD, “Auto Zoom”  to make it a box set.   If you happened to live in the Atlanta area in the 1980s, “Auto Zoom” is a must-add to your nostalgic collection.  According to Jeff Calder,  front man for the band, “there is a sense of history, an important time for me, I’ve always wanted to consolidate our material, and give a complete version of our story.”

The Swimming Pool Qs definitely have a story. Touring the U.S. with bands like “The Police,” “REM,” and Lou Reed, The Swimming Pool Qs have had a full life that doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

However, it is the music that tells the story of their success producing seven remarkable albums. Basically Calder is spot on. The Swimming Pool Qs music is a well put together collection of musical stories, many of the south. For one who has lived in the deep south 28 years, their music says so much with regard to the good and bad aspects of the south.   Make no mistake about it, Jeff Calder, Anne Boston, Bob Elsey, Robert Schmid, and Billy Burton tell a story a bit different from the traditional southern fried rock .

For example, while listening to the track, “Some New Highway”, one cannot feel the struggle and frustration within the song.  It appears to deal with the ethical dilemma so many southern cities such as Atlanta were dealing with trying to shed their image of racism without losing beautiful aspects of the south with writers like Eudora Welty. For Atlanta, it was especially hard dealing with their plight with the missing and murdered children in the early 80’s as the “powers to be”  convinced everyone that the murders were the work of an unemployed black man, not the Klan.

Then there is “The Knave”.  If you lived in the south, you know exactly what Jeff is writing.   During the 80s there seem to be an invite of snake oil salesman trying to sell their works through radio and TV using the Divine Creator as the straight man. THANK YOU FRIENDS please send money……need I say more?  I really love the line, “you won’t be the first with your head on a tray.  You won’t be the last to be part of his play.”  The onslaught of overzealous want to be Moses were strong in numbers. Then adding fuel to the fire,  Jeff writes “Laredo Radio”, adding to the quandary  with the “good ole boy” southern politics forcing many to go with the lesser of two evils.  “I groove upon his forked tongue as he slithers on TV.”  Sort of reminds me of a snake with two heads, or as Forest would say, “peas and carrots.”

However, it is with the song, “Wreak Around”, that the band deals with the “New South”, trying to evolve.  But as the song states “Driving me around through a group of new buildings on what used to be the edge of this town.” It seemed like new construction of the south, mixing with relic traditions of the old like The Fox Theater seem to, at times be on a collision course.  As Jeff stated in one interview, there were two time periods here, one was 1954 with the other being 1984.  It was very difficult to keep up with it all without losing some of its “grand character design.”

These excellent tracks go on and on in The Swimming Pool Qs box set.  This a band that, regardless of the time period, have a lot to say, whether you want to reminisce to the New Wave sounds of the 80’s or just listen to a very tight band that still has a great sound. Swimming Pool Qs seem to truly rely on each other to make a one of a kind band.  Whether it is Anne Boston and Jeff Calder laying down some cool tracks to my favorite, “When The Bell Rings,” or Bob Elsey, Robert Schmid, and Billy Burton providing the right mixed to the right music.   But wait, there is more.  Jeff Calder informed  me there also is a new album in the works.   It surely will be interesting to hear what a 2014 Swimming Pool Qs album may sound like.  Knowing the band’s capacity to produce creative product, I m sure their new album will only make their past look even better with giving them a brighter future.

This is The Swimming Pool Qs in the “red zone”, with their new release, The A&M Years.

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