After a lengthy hiatus Shoegaze indie band Swervedriver reunites to release their fifth album “I Wasn’t Born To Lose You”. Swervedriver were inspired to reconvene after observing the success of The Pixies reunion in conjunction with the recent comeback of Shoegaze acts like Slowdrive, Ride and My Bloody Valentine. Swervedriver is jumping back into the maelstrom of the current music scene with a surly, dreamy, psychedelic guitar sound.
The band that would eventually become Swervedriver was formed in Oxford in 1989 by school mates Adam Franklin and Jimmy Hartridge. The band was influenced by American alternative groups such as Husker Du, Dinosaur Jr and Sonic Youth. Swerverdriver was signed to a recording contract after Alan McGee, the found of Creation Records, hear their demo. In 1991 the band released their first disc Raise. In the next year they would strike up a long lasting relationship with the legendary Alan Moulder, the man who has produced just about every alternative group at some point. Moulder would go on with Swervedriver to produce Mezcal Head in 1993, which gained a solid American following, Ejector Seat Reservation in 1995 and 99th Dream in 1996.
After a number of initial personnel changes the band settled into an established foursome. Members of the band at that juncture were Adam Franklin on vocals and guitar, Jimmy Hartridge on guitars, Steve George on Bass, and Jez Hindmarsh on drums. Currently the band has Mikey Jones occupying the drummers throne.
The band had always seemed to be poised on the cusp of greatness and certainly deserved better than cult status. There is little argument Swervedriver has had one of the most unfortunate runs of luck, predominately stemming from problems with their record companies. The problems began with the album Ejector Seat Reservation which was not originally released in America. Unlike many bands at the time the problem was not due to artistic differences between the band and the record company, but due to money problems between Creation Records and parent company A&M. Shortly thereafter the band was summarily dropped by Creation. The band was determined to release the record and were eventually able to release it on indie label Zero Records out of NY,NY. Swervedriver was then held contractually hostage by A&M. Other record companies made offers to sign the band, but A&M fearing they would lose out financially if Swervedriver went on to become a big success with Ejector Seat Reservation.
The bidding war to sign the band ground to a halt because A&M demanded a high payout of the remaining contract. The rug got pulled out from under them again in the late 90’s by DGC their then record company; first the record company fired their A&R person and then summarily dropped the band. After the beating the group had taken from the record companies, the band questioned whether to continue. They decided to disband, but kept their remaining tour commitments. Their last show was in Perth, Australia on December 13, 1998. Franklin began a solo career that would be as successful as Swervedriver, Hindmarsh would move into band management and Hartridge would establish a distribution company. There are worse outcomes when breaking up a band. Time moves on.
Swervedriver’s story however was not over, in 2005 a revival of their fortunes started with a retrospective release of their work, Juggernaut Rides 89-98 which was released to good reception. In October of 2007 Swervedriver reunited to doing some touring and performed at Coachella in 2008. From there the band would continue to conduct mini tours from 2009 to 2013. In 2014 the band began recording I Wasn’t Born To Lose You in Melbourne Australia at Birdland Studios and at Konk Studios in London. The new album’s release date was announced in January of this year.
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On I Was Born Not To Lose You Swervedriver picks up where they left off. It is like the last 15 years didn’t happen. The band brings the noise, and there is amazing guitar fueled energy exploding off the release. Autodictact kicks off the release with a great chiming guitar. It is all the awesomeness of Shoegaze in one song. The multilayered guitars and effects transpire over a large sonicscape producing a satisfying result.
“Last Rites” is a psychedelic surreal song, with Franklin’s voice being ever so appealing. It is another winning track. The song is catchy and hook laden with effervescent bubbles of guitar energy rife throughout the track.
For a Day Like Tomorrow could have come straight off of a Bob Mould/Husker Du disc. The chattering guitar and drum interplay make for a strong effort, and Franklin’s moody delivery brings the song home. Setting Sun is a trippy and brief song, that is hypnotic and really lets loose in the final third. Everso is a master class in melding shoegazer techniques with hard rock. There is a tinge of Foo Fighters added to the mix, and a great utilization of the “quiet loud quiet” technique originated by The Pixies.
English Subtitles mixes up the sound palette a bit, with a Byrdseque sound, that is bristling with energy and swirling guitars. There is a great balance between the vocals and guitars that make the track very enjoyable. Red Queen Arms Race again changes up the approach. It is a very heavy rock song that then morphs into a real foot stomper with stretchy bass and wonky guitar treatments.
The first release off the album Deep Wound is a guitar driven track that announces that Swervedriver has not ossified in their long hiatus from the studio. They display all their potential greatness and make the listener wonder what could have been, if only fate had been kinder in the past. Deep Wound is a great song that is solid on every element. Bright and shimmering chords open up on Lone Star again shows off all the band’s skills. These chords paired to Franklin’s moody vocal presentation make for a winning combination. The final song I Wonder is an atmospheric summing up of the album. The thunder and crash of the rhythm section build into an amazing crescendo.
Swervedriver are well and truly a group that could be used as an example of what resulted when the music business suddenly imploded in the late 90s. Many quality groups were taken down with the ship. I Was Born Not To Lose You is a strong and welcome return of a group that had always deserved better than they got. Here is hoping they get some well deserved attention they did not get the first go round. The members of Swervedriver are to be credited for having the bravery to try again, they certainly have the skills.