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SWERVEDRIVER – Tuesday, June 28, 2016

SWERVDRIVER003

Childsaint, Dream Rimmy
Amplifier Bar
Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Oxford shoegazey, 90s alt-rock guitar legends Swervedriver have been fairly busy since reforming in 2008. The current incarnation of the band were back in town this week, touring their new album of last year, I Wasn’t Born To Lose You, their first in 17 years.

There’s a definite 90s Brit-rock, shoegaze revival going on in recent times, with the reformed messiahs The Stone Roses leading the charge, as well as recently re-banded Lush, plus My Bloody Valentine and Swervedriver’s label mates Ride, who have also recently been on tour (and getting some rave reviews).

The trend could be seen reflected in the two talented, relatively new, female fronted, local bands Dream Rimmy and Childsaint; well-chosen supports, both putting their own twist on lush, textured, fuzzy, guitar-led sounds.

It was a fairly small crowd on a Tuesday night at Amps, but by the time The Velvet Underground’s All Tomorrow’s Parties rang out, heralding their arrival, the room had filled out quite nicely.

While Swervedriver never reached the heights of their Brit-pop luminaries, they’ve always had a solid fanbase, inhabiting their own unique space between shoegaze and indie-rock, and the mostly mature crowd were keen to see what kinda set the boys would pull out.

Kicking off with the first track from the new album, Autodidact, they took a few songs to really get warmed up, but by the time they dropped into fan fav Rave Down from their classic ’91 debut Raise, they were well into the groove, and the crowd lapped up the lush sounds of their layered guitar attack, nodding their heads to the riff.

They never really indulge in much banter or stage antics, content to remain mostly on the spot, looking down at their pedals and feet, displaying the literal origins of their genre. They are more focused on playing well. Vocalist Adam Franklin really is quite an amazing guitarist up close, very much in control of wide range of sounds he creates on his Fender Jazzmaster.

With long time bassist Steve George not currently touring with the band, they’ve recruited the more than capable Mick Quinn of Supergrass fame, who held down the low end tightly, locked in with drummer Mikey Jones, as the two founding members and dueling guitarists, Franklin and Jimmy Hatridge conjured a wall of sound over the top, with an incredible, massive array of effects pedals strewn out in front of them

Such levels of distortion can be hard to control, and at times the subtleties of their songs were lost in the mix. The set dipped a little bit in the third quarter, but was brought home strong with bonafide classic, their first single, Son Of Mustang Ford (that owed as much to Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr. as it did to the British scene) and new album closer I Wonder that rose to cataclysmic heights, as the crowd were immersed in waves of fuzzy guitar that rolled over them.

After a short break they were back for a trio tunes, including two more of their finest in Everso and the heavier sounds of Duel acting as the finale.

Not the most mindblowing gig, but a great experience and good reminder of a style and approach to music that is vastly different to a lot of bands these days. They might not have pop singles or big, catchy, singalong choruses. You may not even be able to understand most of the lyrics and they mightn’t be the most engaging performers. But it’s not about ego, it’s about the music. And if you allow yourself to turn off, tune out and drop into Swervedriver’s world, it’s a nice warm, fuzzy place to hang out for a while.

ALFRED GORMAN

Pic by Michael Caves

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