Swervedriver – Future Ruins
- David Pollock
- 1 February 2019
Shoegaze heavyweights return with an album that sounds timeless in its delivery
Of all the styles which defined the end of the 20th century in British music, one which still feels most vibrant and alive – and least reliant on hazily nostalgic memories of the olden days – is shoegaze. As tricky as it is to define, you know it when you hear it; clangy, reverb-heavy guitars played either at mournful pace or with overexcited, clashing exuberance, and brooding vocals which are swooning, impassioned and more than a bit melodramatic. Many young bands have adopted its sound, especially when fused with that of its more punk cousin Riot Grrrl, but what really pleases about shoegaze is the way new music by bands of the era manages not to feel dated or out of touch.
To the pile of recent revivalists who have created work which credibly picks up from where they left off in the 1990s, we can add Swervedriver. That doesn't place them in the same league as this decade's albums from My Bloody Valentine or Ride, but then they never quite played in that ballpark, anyway. Their four records released between 1991 and 1998 are more connoisseurs' choices than classics of the genre, and Future Ruins is another strong and sure step in an impressively consistent and enjoyable recorded history.
It's also their second comeback, in a manner of speaking; they've already returned with 2015's I Wasn't Born to Lose You, but in hooking up with Glasgow's Rock Action for Future Ruins they've found label bosses – Mogwai, in other words – who share their sensibility for expansive and emotional rock music. 'Mary Winter', the first song on this record, is a great hook, a spiral staircase of a guitar riff repeating with metronomic insistency, while Adam Franklin's yearning croon remembers the coldest season. In 'I had nothing to dream / so I dreamt of you,' he's also written a contender for most shoegaze lyric ever.
'The Lonely Crowd Fades in the Air' is another peach, a song whose meaty guitar (Franklin and fellow founder member Jimmy Hartridge share lead parts, while mid-90s addition Steve George plays bass and recent recruit Mikey Jones drums) is offset by a gleaming, melodic chorus which Teenage Fanclub would be proud of, as they would 'Drone Lover's. For the most part the songs here are beamed in from 1993, although there are moments where the modern world encroaches; 'we are ruled by fools / these are future ruins,' mourns Franklin over the sparse and windswept title track, while 'Everybody's Going Somewhere and Nobody's Going Anywhere' sets the angst of the 2010s to a baritone vocal and a dreamlike, piano-led ambience which hints at Tom Waits.
Largely, though, the music here involves prime cuts of very identifiable and somewhat future-retro shoegaze, which sounds timeless in its enjoyment of pressing its instruments' capabilities just that bit further than they were intended to go. Swervedriver remain both capable pop songwriters and sonic painters of skill and grace – see the lengthy and largely instrumental slow-build of 'Radio-Silent' for a prime example – and Future Ruins is a welcome record of a band keeping at what they do with purposeful grace.
Out now on Rock Action.