Whenst last we met UK’s Swervedriver, shoegaze had shuffled off, Madchester and baggy were sorted for Es and whizz, Blur and Oasis were feuding, grunge was flanneling, record labels thrived, we used Hotwired as a search engine, and so many white guys in bands had dreads or looked like Jesus Jones.
Swervedriver’s full-length debut Raise came out in 1991. With fuzz and guts, layers of guitars, melody, and tone-deaf vocals mixed à la MBV and DinoJr, the Swervies were sort of a compendium of both, with snippets of glam and post-punk weaved in. Those of us who enjoyed nodding along, staring at our laces and going deaf at concerts reserved a small place in our hearts for their driving thrum.
Whenst last I met Swervedriver, in February, 1994 in Toronto, their live show was big in sound but uneventful in spirit. Not all the piles of pedal boards could distract from the plain fact that the Swervies were just, well, a bit plain live.
Time swallowed them up. Things like N’Sync and Limp Bizkit and Lady Gaga happened. Dreads were lost, as was grunge, Blur (mostly) and Oasis. Swervedriver made it 9 years, and four full albums before slamming the brakes on the Mustang Ford.
But time also is forgiving, and like neon in an American Apparel shop, everything old is new again.
22 years on from its debut and so far from home, Swervedriver are reunited and playing Raise in its entirety…in Sydney, Australia at the Metro Theatre on September 27th. The crowd is thin in parts, as is its hair, but those of us long in the tooth and longer of memory have all gathered to see that band play that album that we valued so many moons ago.
Tonight, they sound as lush but look as glassy as they did before. Singer Adam Franklin expresses barely word nor emotion, so it’s hard to tell if this ramble via memory alley is of the same amount of interest to him as it is to us. But guitarist Steve George and bassist Jimmy Hartridge seem to be giving it a good go. At times you sort of want to yell out “cheer up, laddies!” but then you remember this is the exact same thought you had 19 years ago. So…points for consistency? But Raise still sounds expansive, and one supposes that this is all that matters. The first few,”Sci-Flyers”, “Pile-Up”, “Son of Mustang Ford”, “Deep Seat” (a personal fave) and “Rave Down” all still deafen. New song “Deep Wound” (coincidentally the name of Dinosaur Jr’s first incarnation), is much of the same. And to get Mezcal Head’s dusty “Last Train to Satansville” and “Never Lose that Feeling/Never Learn” in the encore second set is a treat. It’s all powered by chugging drums and millefeuille guitars. Yesss!
So, Swervies, cheer up, laddies. We were happy to have you back, even if you didn’t seem thrilled to be here.\m/
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