Swervedriver – Juggernaut Rides

Swervedriver
Juggernaut Rides

About 10 to 15 years ago, Swervedriver was one of the seminal bands in the “shoegaze” scene alongside bands that really weren’t as similar in musical texture as most rock historians would lead us to believe. Bands such as My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Slowdive, Lush, Pale Saints, and Swervedriver were all lumped together by a term that was loosely defined by the fact that said bands supposedly had so many effects pedals that their members stared at their shoes for the entirety of live performances. In reality, the best of them stood completely apart from one another except for vague similarities in recording techniques like layered vocals or obsession with reverb and delay. My Bloody Valentine crafted music that transcended rock boundaries, let alone this specific genre. Slowdive fortold a future rich with post-rock. Ride was nearly a Brit-pop band aside from the fact that its vocals were way too heavenly and the drumming resembled The Stone Roses. Swervedriver, on the other hand, was nearly exiled from this scene for being “too grungy” or “too metal” by many of the scene’s standards. It was a band that has been sorely overlooked except by maybe Dan King (What’s up Dan? How’s your mom?) and a few other individuals that I’ve run into here and there.

Being an avid fan of the entire shoegaze scene, I was excited to hear that Sanctuary was going to compile a Swervedriver anthology. I was a little disappointed in the Slowdive retrospective the label released last year, but only because I am a much bigger Slowdive fan than a Swervedriver fan and I was hoping to get some cool extra stuff that just wasn’t there. Juggernaut Rides rectifies this problem for Swervedriver fans by adding tons of cool stuff on the second disc and by dividing time between all four Swervedriver records instead of front-loading the record with tracks from what the label obviously thought was the best record on the Catch the Breeze anthology.

Juggernaut Rides doesn’t seem to be in any sort of chronological order. Tracks bounce around from Raise to Mezcal Head to 99th Dream to Ejector Seat Reservation. All of it has been remastered, so the sound quality is top notch no matter what time period in the band’s history you’re listening to; it sounds like it was recorded today. Somehow Sanctuary got the tracklisting almost perfect on this one by making the exact mixtape I would’ve made if I was trying to introduce a friend to the Swervedriver catalog. Do we have “Rave Down?” Check. “99th Dream?” Check. “Last Train to Satansville?” Check. “Blowin’ Cool?” Check. “Son of Mustang Ford?” Check. “These Times?” Check. “How Does it Feel to Look Like Candy?” Check, check, and double check.

Ahhhh… where was I? Anyway, to defend Swervedriver against the aforementioned claims of being “metal” or “grunge,” one need only to look at the other bands with which it has been compared for so long. They are all bands that are beautiful and lush (no pun intended). I would NEVER knock MBV or Slowdive, NEVER. But, Swervedriver is a ROCK band more than it isn’t, where those bands are rock sometimes. You can actually hear The Stooges’ influence on Adam Franklin’s guitar sound. It is still awash in reverb and delay, but it is definitely chunkier than My Bloody Valentine’s fluff on the needle guitar sound or Slowdive’s gauzy texture, and their riffs also owe some debt to GASP…Led Zeppelin (puts hands over mouth in shock)!

So to all you non-shoegaze fans out there, I still think there might be hope for you yet if you would just give Swervedriver a chance. The band still rocks, but it could also be the “gateway drug” to get you interested in other bands that you might have always thought were “too wussy” – as a friend of mine once put it. For all you shoegazers out there that want to remember another band in high quality stereophonic sound, here is the answer.