Future Ruins by Swervedriver (Dangerbird Records)
As far as opening salvos go, the distorted guitar chugs of first track Mary Winter excite the ears and create anticipation for a new collection of tunes from my favorite band. That the physical momentum doesn’t last isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just something for myself and older fans to have to adjust to.
What Swervedriver’s Adam Franklin, Jimmy Hartridge and Steve George do on Future Ruins is take the foot off the gas a bit to better delve into the guitar and vocal interplay that is a big aspect of the band’s sound. Mikey Jones mostly keeps a reserved tempo throughout Future Ruins, letting the guitar fireworks fly, yet adding his own understated flair to the mix.
Singer and guitarist Adam Franklin’s lyrics and arrangements often turn to thoughts of Autumn and Winter, where days get colder and shorter, when activities stay indoors, when contemplation turns inward and one’s own mortality is considered. What keeps Future Ruins from becoming a navel-gazing bore is the joy inherent in that interplay of Franklin and Hartridge’s guitars, swirling and dueling, exchanging leads and filtering through new pedals and effects. Swervedriver have ever been a musician’s band, and they don’t disappoint when it comes to six-string innovation. They also know how to coalesce all the layers into one big moment, as heard on The Lonely Crowd Fades In The Air, where at about 2:30 in, the title and riffs are repeated on and on, the cymbals and guitar parts lifting you higher and higher until you’re in rock’n’roll heaven.
The title track builds slowly on Franklin’s pretty, melancholic vocals, a spare beat, spacey effects and scratchy blues guitar, a tambourine shook in the background. It’s all sad and lovely, with a loud plateau three quarters of the way in to shake you up.
Theeascending is a solid mid-tempo number with a comforting blanket of fluffy vocals and chiming guitars and short jabs of spacey and harder guitars to jar you back to reality, ending in a groovy jam that is classic Swervedriver.
On Spiked Flower, Jones’ hard-hitting drums are higher in the mix, the guitars chugging along until they break out into a loose dance that is a joy to hear.
Golden Remedy sounds like a fever dream, a woozy mind-trip where your body leaves the ground, floats into the universe and you dissipate into the cosmos.
Good Times Are So Hard To Follow references another song in the lyrical approach but after repeated listens the effect settles into being another grooving song with plenty of ideas expressed in the rhythm and guitar parts.
What Swervedriver really excel at is building a mood, and Future Ruins ends on a big, bold feeling of elation in the form of Radio-Silent. Recalling yet sounding nothing like Never Learn, the long instrumental coda to Mezcal Head and second part of Never Lose That Feeling, Radio-Silent layers on Steve George’s thrumming bass, Hartridge and Franklin’s guitar lines duck and dive into the mix and Jones’ drum hits are mesmerizing. As the many introduced parts pile onto each other, the volume rises, the soul soars and catharsis is achieved.
On Future Ruins, Swervedriver continue to explore the depths of their instruments and psyches and prove that the journey is more important than the speed you drive to get to the destination.
See Swervedriver on tour this Spring with Failure and No Win.
(Review by Bret Miller)
Swervedriver Official Home Page