Space-Walking Through Swervedriver’s Sci-Fi Sonics

Swervedriver’s jagged axes and psy-fi lyricism helped endow so-called shoegaze with its increasing credibility. But although Swervedriver’s new tour revs up Thursday in New York, a new full-length follow-up to the band’s final 1997 spacewalk 99th Dream is not yet written in the stars.

“I can’t honestly say we are making an album,” vocalist and guitarist Adam Franklin (above, with beard) told “But we might suddenly find ourselves with one.”

That’s something for the Swervedriver faithful, who have been patiently waiting and watching the rock quartet’s reputation grow. The ’90s that couldn’t classify the band’s muscular, psychedelic sound finally gave way to the ’00s and ’10s that could revisit essential recordings like Raise and Mezcal Head without the noise of scene hype.

Not that the scene hype was utterly without merit. Indie documentaries like the recent Upside Down: The Creation Records Story and the forthcoming Anyone Can Play Guitar and Beautiful Noise are charting the continuing relevance of musical trippers like My Bloody Valentine, Ride, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Swervedriver, whose incendiary sound careened between The Stooges and Syd Barrett to a point that even shoegaze didn’t know where to put it.

“Those were heady days. Creation was a buzz,” said Franklin of the notorious U.K. label that housed Swervedriver, My Bloody Valentine, The Jesus and Mary Chain and many other influential bands.

“A semi-legal story is that one day we slipped a little something to Primal Scream singer Bobby Gillespie‘s brother Graham — aka The Judge, who used to run the warehouse — in order to walk out of there with our master reels,” Franklin continued. “We’d found out that some of the masters of Raise had gone missing or something, so we figured we’d be better off looking after them ourselves! Well, possession might be nine-tenths of the law, but ‘in perpetuity’ goes on forever. So we actually gave them back a couple of years ago.”

Now in its third decade, the Swervedriver machine is still running smoothly. Ex-drummer Graham Bonnar has returned to the engine room, the quartet’s mileage has grown with every reissue and tour, and late adopters in love with spiraling rock and tiring of their own scenes lie in wait. Those who catch a live set will hear tremolo anthems like “Never Lose That Feeling” and “Duel” (below), as well as what Franklin calls a “few left turns.”

Meanwhile, Franklin’s third solo effort, I Could Sleep for a Thousand Years, arrives June 29, and he plans to record the fourth quickly after Swervedriver’s short stint winds down Sunday in Los Angeles. Franklin broke down his band’s speculative soundtracking below for fans old and new. Come for the dystopian geekery and cultural esoterica, stay for the spacey rock signatures.

“Duel,” “The Hitcher,” Mezcal Head

“‘Duel‘ and ‘The Hitcher‘ were both named after the classic car movies, of course. But the songs don’t have much else to do with them. ‘The Hitcher’ is a love song that happens to have landslides, rainstorms, explosions and burning pylons contained within.”

“93 Million Miles From the Sun (and Counting),” Juggernaut Rides ’89-’98

“The title is borrowed from a beautiful Los Bros Hernandez Love and Rockets comic, and the song is a reworking of ‘Harry & Maggie’ from Mezcal Head,” said Franklin. “It’s a tale of a world gone mad, and with the most sci-fi lead guitar this side of the Doctor Who theme.”

“Son of Mustang Ford,” Raise

“‘Mustang Ford’ wasn’t influenced by J.G. Ballard’s Crash, as has been suggested,” Franklin said. “It’s a great book though, set around Heathrow Airport and its strange hotels, gas stations and empty spaces. It always crosses my mind when I’m catching a flight. And I loved David Cronenberg’s movie.”

“99th Dream,” 99th Dream

“‘Somewhere up in the sky the Hindenburg still flies/And you’re still flying from the night before,’” quotes Franklin. “There’s apocalypse in that title track. 99th Dream‘s ‘Expressway’ also has similar apocalyptic scenes of London’s destruction: ‘The world ends in West End sirens screaming unseen.’”

Various, Adam Franklin

“Here’s a holy sci-fi trinity for you,” Franklin said. ” ‘Just Landed,’ the third song from my 2000 Toshack Highway album, is the story of an astronaut who perhaps half-realizes that he’s never coming back to Earth.

“Five years later, the astronaut reappears in ‘Walking in Heaven’s Foothills,’ from my first Bolts of Melody album. He’s been spinning farther away from Earth, watching endless reruns of old videos of his kids back on Earth and marveling at the galaxies going past.

“Then in ‘Athens 5’ — from my 2008 Magnetic Morning album AM, created with Interpol’s Sam Fogarino — someone walks by a river on Earth as space debris falls out of the sky, narrowly missing him as it plunges into the water. It’s the last song on the album, and you can hear the astronaut’s voice at its end relaying the message, ‘I don’t know where I am.’ Oh yes.”

This article appeared at Wired