Swervedriver: the early EP's
After a 17-year recording hiatus, the British shoegaze band Swervedriver are about to release their fifth album, titled I Wasn’t Born To Lose You, on March 3rd. It is their first studio album since their 1998 album 99th Dream. Swervedriver have been frequently performing live since they reunited in 2008 (after a decade-long hiatus). Their current lineup consists of founding members Adam Franklin (vocals, guitar) and Jimmy Hartridge (guitar), along with bassist Steve George, and drummer Mikey Jones.
Like their fellow shoegazers and Creation label-mates in My Bloody Valentine and Ride, Swervedriver released a number of EP’s in the U.K. before recording a full-length album. The title tracks from three of those EP’s later were included on the band’s full-length debut Raise in 1991. These early EP’s were recorded by the original Swervedriver lineup, consisting of Franklin, Hartridge, bassist Adi Vines, and drummer Graham Bonnar.
Their first EP, Son Of Mustang Ford, was released in 1990. The four tracks on this EP are in the indie guitar-band mold, similar in some ways to Sonic Youth, but far less chaotic and with more conventional tuning. The focused hard-rock riffs are often more characteristic of heavy metal than of other shoegaze bands, although the six-minute “Kill The Superheroes” concludes with a jam marked by prominent effects pedal sounds. The low murmur of Franklin’s vocals makes for an odd but viable match for the material. The lyrics use automobiles as symbols of freedom. (Notes: This EP was issued in the U.S. as a promo CD in 1991 by A&M Records, catalogue no. 75021 7302 2. “Kill The Superheroes” and “Juggernaut Rides” later appeared on the 2005 U.K. compilation Juggernaut Rides '89–'98).
Their second EP, Rave Down, found them moving deeper into shoegazing territory. The title track and “She’s Beside Herself” each create a slightly dreamier aura that blends better with Franklin’s weary-sounding vocals. “Afterglow” is similar to the harder-rocking songs about cars on the previous EP, although it is colored by an increasing use of effects pedals; “Zedhead” gets its driving power from a more down-to-earth guitar-bass-drum attack. (Note: This EP was issued in the U.S. as a promo CD in 1991 by A&M Records, catalogue no. 75021 7279 2).
On their third EP, Sandblasted, the band really started pushing the effects pedals to the metal. Although the title track is a fairly straightforward mid-tempo rock epic with some shoegaze texture added, the three B-sides – “Flawed”, “Out”, and “Laze It Up” – reach down deeper to generate dream-like reverb and distortion. It’s tempting to compare Franklin’s vocals here to Kurt Cobain’s, but this EP predated Nirvana’s Nevermind – and the subsequent explosion of the Seattle grunge sound – by two months. The lyrics once again express a desire to use automobiles to run free and wild, but they suggest this time that an attempted escape from reality was unsuccessful.
The U.S. promo EP Reel To Real also featured the song “Sandblasted” as its A-side track, using a phrase from the song’s lyrics as the EP title. Its first B-side, “Scrawl & Scream”, is a slowed-down reworking of “Afterglow” from Rave Down, with a bit of steel guitar added into its bed of distortion. “Hands” expresses a longing to live in one’s own parallel time apart from the world. Finally, the high point of this EP is a moving, reverb-heavy cover of the Velvet Underground song “Jesus”. In the U.K., that track appeared on a promo split-single shared with the Dylans, and on a Velvet Underground tribute album called Heaven And Hell, Volume Three; in Australia, it appeared on a promo split-EP shared with the Boo Radleys.
The last EP issued by the original Swervedriver lineup was Never Lose That Feeling. This EP had two of the same B-side tracks as Reel To Real – namely “Hands” (listed as “The Watchmaker’s Hands” on the disc) and “Scrawl & Scream”. The eleven-minute-plus “Never Lose That Feeling / Never Learn” was a non-album track in the U.K. which was added as a bonus track on the U.S. version of Mezcal Head, the second full-length Swervedriver album. This track showed a noticeable difference in production in comparison to the earlier recordings; the sound was cleaner and more polished, the guitar distortion seemed more controlled, and Franklin’s vocals were placed higher in the mix so that they were more audible than usual. The A-side version featured a nearly-eight-minute instrumental with a prominent jazz horn; the four-minute seven-inch-single version at the end of the EP omitted that lengthy “Never Learn” instrumental. That shorter version later turned up on Juggernaut Rides '89–'98.
Swervedriver “Son Of Mustang Ford” EP (Creation CRESCD 079) 1990
1. Son Of Mustang Ford *
2. Volcano Trash
3. Kill The Superheroes **
4. Juggernaut Rides **
Swervedriver “Rave Down” EP (Creation CRESCD 088) 1990
1. Rave Down *
2. She’s Beside Herself
Swervedriver “Sandblasted” EP (Creation CRESCD 102) 1991
1. Sandblasted *
4. Laze It Up
Swervedriver “Reel To Real” EP (A&M 75021 2402 2) 1991
2. Scrawl & Scream **
Swervedriver “Never Lose That Feeling” EP (Creation crescd 120) 1992
1. Never Lose That Feeling / Never Learn
2. Scrawl & Scream **
3. (The Watchmaker’s) Hands
4. Never Lose That Feeling **
* - Later included on Raise (1991)
** - Later included on Juggernaut Rides '89–'98 (2005)
See also Ejector Seat Reservation