30 January 2019

Swervedriver - Future Ruins

Some bands are names that you hear whispered in revered tones, but never really check out yourself.  I've got tones of bands from my youth which fall into that category, especially when it comes to early '90s UK Alternative Rock bands.  One of the biggest names in that category are Swervedriver, yet I cannot fathom out in my head why I've never picked up an album for either review or listening purposes.   It's not as if I've not had the opportunity, their original run lasted from 1991 to 1998, and they released new music in 2015 in the form of I Wasn't Born to Lose You.  What makes this more galling, is that I've got a copy of I Wasn't Born... in my collection, but I've never listened to it.  That one is my fault, but to be fair, I've only got so much time for music and other essentials these days.  So, I want to be honest before starting this review, I'm a novice when it comes to the output of Swervedriver, also sometimes I listen to too much Zappa for my own good (not really).

Future Ruins is the second studio album Swervedriver have released since reforming, the sixth they've released in total.  It was preceded by "Mary Winter" in October 2018.  Now, I'm always looking for new-ish stuff for my radio show, but I've always thought I should give these guys a fair crack at the whip.  Before I start the review, I would also like to say that I think we've already got a contender for cover of the year with this one.  The monochrome image of a fairground with nothing going on, the bleak sky and the gorgeous contrast as wonderful.  I like an album with a striking image, but is the music up to the same high standard?

01 - Mary Winter

The first track on the album is the first single, "Mary Winter".  This is retro sounding for me, a beautiful cascade of jangly guitar tones, beautiful bass and drifting vocals that sound like the haze of midday in the middle of summer.  This is a beautiful shoegazing song, a punchy and bouncy number that you can also lose yourself in.  In short, it's the perfect introduction to this album, one that had me picking up my jaw from the floor and wondering if the rest of the album will be this good.....

02 - The Lonely Crowd Fades In The Air

"The Lonely Crowd Fades In The Air" continues the fine work of "Mary Winter", with a slower tone and pace to the music, but with the same level of impact and that amazing infectious noise.  This one sounds more like the shoegazing songs I heard in my youth, but with a dose of Dinosaur Jr. in the mix.  It'll be a crowd pleaser when played live, it just feels like a song that should be heard in the live environment.

03 - Future Ruins

"Future Ruins" feels epic, long and as relentlessly slow as the march of time towards the end of all things.  To measure the passing of time, you have to look at Ice Age charts.  But this is not to say it's not enjoyable.  Far from it, "Future Ruins" is one of those songs that you can absorb you, set your mind drifting with the music and returning at the other side refreshed.  I'm not gonna lie, "Future Ruins" is not a track that will tickle everyone's fancy, but I think if you're a fan of this genre, you'll love it.

04 - Theeascending

"Theeascending" continues the slow, hypnotic path that was started on "Future Ruins".  Peppered with psychedelic guitars, rolling drums and long instrumental passages, "Theeascending" is a song that will have a few people struggling, but will have the faithful rejoicing.  It's an enjoyable track, but one that I would say is very much for the converted.

05 - Drone Lover

Let's be honest, "Drone Lover" might drone a little, but it's no Sunn 0))))! But enough of the sarcasm here.  This is a traditional Powerpop/Shoegazing/UK 90's drone song. It might sound retro, but as Swervedriver are one of the pioneers of this sound, you have to give them some slack.  Either way, it's a glorious piece of music, one that makes the sunshine in my heart.

06 - Spiked Flower

"Spiked Flower" is a turning point for me on this album, they seem to go from Shoegaze to Post-Grunge in one song and it feels like this has been bubbling under the surface for this album.  "Spiked Flower" is a song about rejection, disenchantment and the lack of communication in the world.  I love this song, the simplistic nature of the song, the innocence and the joy to the music, a direct contrast to the disenchantment of the lyrics.  Each time I play it, I want to jump around like a young kid again.

07 - Everybody's Going Somewhere & No-One's Going Anywhere

So how do Swervedriver follow "Spiked Flower"?  They drift to a desert and drop the atmospheric "Everybody's Going Somewhere & No-one's Going Anywhere".  If I was to try to describe it to someone without referencing any other band, it would be an impossible task.  But I will say this, whatever they used to create this song, I think they got their moneys worth.

08 - Golden Remedy

"Golden Remedy" is probably the first track that doesn't seem to match, diversify or better the track beforehand.  It's a decent little droning number, there is a sweet guitar line in the middle of it, but "Golden Remedy" just seems to drift with no real focus.  It's a good number, but when compared to the first seven, it doesn't match the standard of what has gone beforehand.

09 - Good Times Are So Hard To Follow

Penultimate track "Good Times Are So Hard To Follow" brings everything back on track for me.  The sonic psychedelic noise is wonderful, the Post-Grunge vibe mixed with the shoegazing tone just melt my mind each time.  Whilst this album is approaching the end, it's great to hear another song that just hits all the right buttons for me.

10 - Radio-Silent

Now, this is how to end a Shoegazing record!  With a long, droning and hypnotic track that last a lifetime and feels like the sun is setting slowly in the distance!  "Radio-Silent" is a beautiful way to end an album, because you don't want it to end, you want it to continue until the very last second.  Each repeat of the simple chord sequence, each clash feels like a repreive from the final moment, the last note, until the inevitible ending.  I love this song, it speaks to my youth and to me now, what a way to end this record.

Why have I not got my arse into gear and listened to Swervedriver before?!?!?  Seriously, the shoegazing, the sound like an English version of Dinosaur Jr., the beautiful music that sounds like summer in wintertime.  Everything about Future Ruins is amazing, as far as I'm concerned, Swervedriver have delivered the first classic album of 2019.  There is a real mix bag of sounds on this record.  Some of the songs have a Post Grunge feeling to them as well, some have the classic shoegazer feeling, but all of them are glorious.  Even when a track feels a little ropey, it's only compared to the high standard that Swervedriver have set themselves on this record.  Future Ruins is a stunning album, one that I love so much already.  2019 - you've been put on notice!  Now, to the back-catalogue......

10 out of ten - This is proof there is a Deity

Top track - Spiked Flower

You can purchase Future Ruins from Amazon here.

You can visit the Swervedriver website here.

You can follow the activities of Swervedriver on Facebook here.

You can stream Future Ruins on Spotify here.

You can stream Future Ruins on Deezer here. 

You can stream Future Ruins on Tidal here. 

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