When ‘dreampop’ began to morph into ‘shoegaze’ in the late eighties/early nineties, one of the premier bands enjoying the transition was Oxford, U.K.’s Swervedriver. Ticking off all the appropriate categorical boxes, they were emblematic of that scene’s paradigm while also trying to break free of it. Guitar distortion? Check. Signed to Alan McGhee’s Creation Records? Check. Obscured and bass-heavy vocals? Check. Ear-shattering volume? Check. Feedback? Triple check. While fully embracing shoegaze’s dark aesthetic on the surface, what separated them however was they didn’t use their pedals and layered vocals to drown listeners in thick, white noise. Instead, they used their pedals to rock… and rock hard. What Swervedriver did better than many of the contemporaries like Ride, Moose, and My Bloody Valentine though was sidle themselves closer to the American grunge aesthetic. Creating wildly psychedelic swirls, Swervedriver enveloped listeners in fuzz while coddling their cold, flannel hearts with loud, aching guitars. Their sound was closer to their Stateside cousins like Dinosaur, Jr. than their U.K. brothers in House of Love. It is most likely the clincher to why their appeal was broader and more wide-ranging (and longer-lived) than their British contemporaries, but also why their music seemed like an anomaly that didn’t quite fit into either scene. Their new 10-track album Future Ruins follows in the tradition of their earlier (arguably) classic albums Raise, Mezcal Head, and even the oft-ignored Ejector Seat Reservation, in which the sly interplay between Adam Franklin and Jimmy Hartridge’s guitars weave in and out of each other’s chords, creating an elaborate afghan of sounds, while bolstered by muscular and punctuated drumming by semi-newcomer Mikey Jones. Kicking off with the icy spaciness of “Mary Winter,” Swervedriver pictures a homesick astronaut archetype hurtling through space who has been traveling for so long that he’s forgotten a lot about his home planet. Continuing the feeling of icy isolation and aimlessness, “The Lonely Crowd Fades In The Air” shimmers and shines in woolly feedback over Franklin’s wistful and questioning lyrics whether the life choices he made in the past were for the best. In a broken and twisted world, he muses “And so we’ve stumbled into the end of days / Where the future comes home to cry / So choose your colors wisely because things ain’t the same as in days gone by.” It’s these tales of ruined civilization and regretful pasts that fuel the frustration within the album’s lyrics, penciling a world not totally ruined but dangerously verging on dystopia.
The intricate tapestry they’ve constructed on this album will undoubtedly unfurl quite majestically in a live environment when they come to The Saint tonight, 10/23, in Asbury Park. Expect to hear classic cuts like “Duel”, “Never Lose That Feeling,” and “These Times” intermixed with new jaunty tracks like “Mary Winter”, “Drone Lover,” and the title track from Future Ruins. While this album’s obtuseness may keep it from being their breakthrough, their live shows historically creates an epic environment altogether—one where Swervedriver shimmers and shines.