The first time I saw Swearing at Motorists was at a small house party in Austin. The Dayton, Ohio two-piece set up in a stifling room off the kitchen and proceeded to rock the place with sonic convulsions and emotional breakdowns, as singer/guitarist Dave Doughman freaked out like a manic-depressive who'd run out of meds. One moment, he was curled up over his guitar, crooning with buttery sweetness over pastoral indie rock; the next, he'd snap into some high-strung spasm of rage and depression, wrestling his painful memories with the same violent force.
Whatever Doughman was singing about, there was a raw honesty in his delivery that hung in the room long after he had left the makeshift stage.
Doughman is an emotional storyteller, whose tales about girls leaving, and boys drinking, burn lasting pictures in your mind. He fills the band's first album, More Songs From the Mellow Struggle, with a series of images sure to leave a lasting impression: the first man to "drown on dry land," driving in a car with no destination, "trying to put some distance between me and a gun." A girl calls at 3:32 am, knowing he will answer. Air Force sirens ring in the night sky, keeping a neighborhood awake as one man's sadness overcomes him.
Doughman constructs a place where relationships don't so much break up as dissolve, only to reappear in some new form as couples move slowly from their houses to their local bars. Even as the stories start to cluster under generally depressed emotions, though, SAM keeps the music on the upswing, giving even the slowest of songs a swift rock kick. It's hard to find openly wounded indierock that doesn't feel like it's bleeding all over you, and Swearing at Motorists walks that line with utmost skill and confidence.