Never having been completely smothered by shoegaze’s heady-sounding miasma, Swervedriver have both sought and managed a simple path to revival which owes little to the movement’s re-found popularity.
Their bracketing into the scene at the time was more by circumstance (although being from Oxford and producing an initial demo in 1989 didn’t exactly hinder any progress), but their touchstone early albums Raise and Mezcal Head stood apart from the work of many contemporaries, visceral and fried but equally far less introverted. The sort of mainstream and critical acclaim heaped on My Bloody Valentine and Ride evaded the quartet however and eventually, after a string of label and line-up calamities, version 1.0 of the band fell silent after the release of the muted fourth album 99th Dream.
Perhaps the band’s core duo of Adam Franklin and Jimmy Hartridge were as surprised as anyone when kids around the world started buying up effects pedals and printing their own Chapterhouse t-shirts in the early part of this decade, but rather than flog the nostalgia circuit, Swervedriver’s reformation creatively was confirmed by 2014’s I Wasn’t Born To Lose You, a guns-blazing exercise in canny sonic ricochets.
Future Ruins is an affirmation; Franklin sees it as a declaration of the band as a forward looking, ongoing concern with its release. Opener Mary Winter acts as a cipher for these hopes and fears via the character of a spaceman hurtling away from a planet they wonder if they will ever see again, the song rolling with waves of noise and drums that sound like rocket fuel igniting.
The FX-smothered edifice and the listener’s abandonment to it was the old school rush, but here there are just pockets of wig out, both the title-track and closer Radio Silent working at crawling pace, asking the listener to swim out into the void with them as soldered riffs and long passages of minimalism do as much to overwhelm as any feedback squalls could ever do.
Other than, in fact, on the animated Good Times pulses are rarely over extended, but the craft shows and the right buttons are pressed; Golden Remedy and Drone Lover both sound like they’ve been teleported through time straight in from Teenage Fanclub’s grunge-Byrds classic Bandwagonesque, while the nuance will be lost on many perhaps but Spiked Flower perversely reprises the Dando/Mascis thoughtpedo that killed off shoegaze’s British fragility in the first place.
This obvious cross-referencing is brave, but there’s still a surprise or two, most notably on Everyone’s Going Somewhere And No-One’s Going Anywhere, a genuine oddity where the mellifluous Rhodes undertow intercepts Franklin’s contorted, lachrymose vocals, the purpose of which remains a pleasing mystery.
There’s enough evidence in this new post-getting-the-band-back-together era to have proven some odd but familiar concepts, such as the difficult second, second time around album. Wisely Swervedriver have decided to make Future Ruins a record that wants to work with you, to meet it half way and make you draw your own conclusions about modernity.
They remain, as always, on a planet of their own making.