Monday, March 2, 2015

Swervedriver- I Wasn't Born to Lose You

So, I got this today, one day early. I've always liked Swervedriver, but I can't say I've loved them. Until, now, that is. They're playing at a godawful site in DC within a few weeks, and I might bite the bullet, and see them.
See, Swervedriver got grouped in with the Shoegazers, and I can see why. The vocals are very pretty, and lend a much more mellow feel to the music than the guitars lay down, but they make for pretty bad shoegazers, and the result of that, for me, has always been that they're too easy to dismiss ( Except for "Mezcal Head" which is flat-out awesome).
Here's the basic formula- you start with a jangle guitar, about two parts Peter Buck, one part Lee Ranaldo, then, add a soaring post punk guitar that's equal measure Bob Mould and J Mascis. Now soak the whole thing in reverb, and add stack vocal harmonies, like Crosby, Stills & Young, and The Byrds. Play and off-center beat under that, and you've got the basic idea. It's a really dense sound, and parallels what Ride and M B V were doing, but definitely is more propulsive and grounded. There are times where it gets James Williamson style heft, and Wayne Kramer style sonics, so more like "Ear Blazing" than Shoegazing.
But, as that formula might suggest, it can get a bit too top heavy with ideas, and you end up with the song sounding like 3 different demos smashed together. So, I'm not suggesting you get their whole catalog. Just this one and Mezcal Head.
See, they have stuck to the formula here, but they've been surrounded by advances in music. Grunge has turned into Stoner Rock, Shoegazing into Post Rock, and Punk into Metal- so, now, their formula has new combinations to lock into- The end result is that the jangles are more angular, and less retro, the sonic guitar heavier, and more anthemic, and the stacked vocals more baroque- excess definitely suits their style. It places them in more firmly post punk, and Stoner, and heavy traditions- this version I can hear playing on  some mythical bill with True Widow and Baroness- like Quicksand- they are straddling several worlds in the density of the guitars- but the clear, and strong production means you can separate out what they're doing, at any given moment.
So, yeah, I really like it a lot. I can see an alternative to Deathfest, in this- a festival of "Not Quite" Metal bands- Torche, Baroness, True Widow, Coliseum, Cloakroom, Ume, Pelican, Kylesa, and yes, Swervedriver....

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