Wednesday, February 25, 2015

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

Swervedriver “Son Of Mustang Ford” EP (Creation CRESCD 079) 1990

Track Listing:

1. Son Of Mustang Ford *
2. Volcano Trash
3. Kill The Superheroes **
4. Juggernaut Rides **


Swervedriver - Rave Down

Swervedriver “Rave Down” EP (Creation CRESCD 088) 1990

Track Listing:

1. Rave Down *
2. She’s Beside Herself
3. Afterglow
4. Zedhead


Swervedriver - Sandblasted

Swervedriver “Sandblasted” EP (Creation CRESCD 102) 1991

Track Listing:

1. Sandblasted *
2. Flawed
3. Out
4. Laze It Up


Swervedriver - Reel to Real

Swervedriver “Reel To Real” EP (A&M 75021 2402 2) 1991

Track Listing:

1. Sandblasted
2. Scrawl & Scream **
3. Hands
4. Jesus


Swervedriver - Never Lose That Feeling

Swervedriver “Never Lose That Feeling” EP (Creation crescd 120) 1992

Track Listing:

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

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Swervedriver "Ejector Seat Reservation" (1995)

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.

Swervedriver recorded four full-length albums in the 1990’s, but their third album, Ejector Seat Reservation, was never released in the U.S. The album's release was dropped by A&M Records after the band split from the label, and the label did not relinquish its rights to the album, preventing it from being released by DGC Records, the band’s next American label. Ejector Seat Reservation was originally released in the U.K. in 1995 by the Creation label (who dropped the band one week later), and reissued there in 2008 by Sony BMG with bonus tracks.

At the time this album was recorded, Swervedriver consisted of Franklin, Hartridge, George, and drummer Jez Hindmarsh.

Some would dispute the common belief that shoegaze is the proper genre in which to categorize Swervedriver. After all, the band evolved from an ‘80’s punk outfit called Shake Appeal, who were named after a Stooges song. The first two full-length Swervedriver albums, Raise (1991) and Mezcal Head (1993), tended to resemble those of American indie bands such as Sonic Youth and Hüsker Dü, with bits of punk, metal, and late-‘60’s-style rock mixed in. And their fourth and final ‘90’s album, 99th Dream (1998), leaned toward Britpop.

But Ejector Seat Reservation fits more firmly into the shoegazing category. Most of its songs have a feeling of dream-pop detachment, with frequent – though not constant – use of effects pedals. Although the album is not exactly an example of Britpop, it appears that Swervedriver had been musically affected by that scene by the time they made Ejector Seat. “Bring Me The Head Of The Fortune Teller” and “The Other Jesus” seem to start the album off in that type of direction. However, the rest of the album (beginning with “Son Of Jaguar 'E' ”) drifts off into a hazier realm of devil-may-care daydreaming, with lyrics suggesting characters who seem calmly indifferent about living and dying. By turns, these characters come across as either sanguine (“Bubbling Up”, "Son Of Jaguar 'E' "), self-destructive (“Last Day On Earth” and the title track), or whimsical (“I Am Superman”, “The Birds”), all of them speaking in an emotionally distant tone through Franklin's just-above-the-threshold vocals. After the ten proper tracks, the CD concludes with three unlisted tracks: a spacey one-minute instrumental (“Plan 7 Star Satellite 10”); an untitled minute of silence; and finally, “Flaming Heart”, a less-distant-sounding track about loneliness and heartbreak that expresses the exact types of emotions that the other tracks seemed to be suppressing. This track snaps the album out of its dream-like state and brings it back down to earth at the last minute.

Ejector Seat Reservation is perhaps not Swervedriver’s best work, as many critics have opined, but it is nonetheless a rewarding and compelling musical statement.

Sony BMG’s 2008 reissue of the album contained four bonus tracks. The first two, “Maelström” and “Director’s Cut Of Your Life”, were originally released on the Last Day On Earth EP (Creation CRE 179T) in 1995. Both are decent shoegaze tracks whose tone is less detached than most of the Ejector Seat songs. The other two bonus tracks previously turned up on the 2005 U.K. compilation Juggernaut Rides ’89-’98. The first of these, “Just Sometimes”, is a repetitive two-minute throwaway. But the eight-minute “Neon Lights Glow” is an absorbing and creative collage that cleverly mashes up the riffs from Link Wray’s “Rumble” and Kraftwerk’s “Neon Lights”.

Finally, the most obscure Ejector Seat Reservation track of them all is “It’s All Happening Now”, which was only included on early promo pressings of the album. It had to be withdrawn from the album when the band failed to get permission to use lyrics lifted from Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”. There was certainly not a problem with the song’s quality; it is quite good, and would have fit in well on the album, as it was intended to be placed between the title track and “How Does It Feel To Look Like Candy?”.


Swervedriver - Ejector Seat Reservation

Swervedriver “Ejector Seat Reservation” (Creation CRECD 157) 1995

Track Listing:

1. Single Finger Salute
2. Bring Me The Head Of The Fortune Teller
3. The Other Jesus
4. Son Of Jaguar 'E'
5. I Am Superman
6. Bubbling Up
7. Ejector Seat Reservation
8. How Does It Feel To Look Like Candy?
9. Last Day On Earth
10. The Birds

Unlisted Tracks:

11. Plan 7 Star Satellite 10
12. (one-minute silent track)
13. Flaming Heart

Bonus Tracks from 2008 reissue (Sony BMG 88697364092):

14. Maelström
15. Director’s Cut Of Your Life
16. Just Sometimes
17. Neon Lights Glow

* It’s All Happening Now – (extra track included on early promo pressings)


See also Swervedriver: the early EP's