For those who can’t pick up on cosmic vibrations from Oxford Town, please know that there is a truly excellent new record from Swervedriver that was launched into the stratosphere last week. Future Ruins finds the Swervies leaning away from the sparks-and-crackle double-tracked chargers of their youth and into a far dreamier, widescreen escapist realm that I, for one, find to be completely compelling territory to get lost in for 40 minutes. Songs like the title track, “The Lonely Crowd Fades In The Air”, and “Radio-Silent” have a hymn-like, post apocalyptic quality that does something way different than all the collapsing society-addressing tracks of the present day. While they don’t necessarily celebrate the Ultimate Collapse, they do manage to find some potential beauty in it. As lead Swerve Adam Franklin himself recently stated when speaking of the record:
“We haven’t reached any particular endgame there yet – perhaps it won’t happen. I think that if something does happen, then we should probably embrace our heritage and return to being druids, pagans and witches, dancing around ancient stone circles in the middle of the night completely naked, chanting incantations and worshiping sun gods. There’ll be no car industry either, so we’ll all have to drive around in old bangers from the 70s. It could be great!”
While this may not be the speed-eating, dreadlocked sound warriors you loved in the ’90s, the Swerves haven’t completely abandoned those stubborn nostalgia heads who long for the ragers of the first few albums. “Theeascending” and “Mary Winter” in particular light up those red levels with the splintered sound shards of old, only now they are stretched out to serve as the framework for well-crafted songs of a distinctly Blakean, all-encompassing, hallucinatory mindset. These are empty airplane hangar songs. These are short circuiting digital billboard songs. These are packed train stations with nowhere to go songs. And they’re presented with a washed out warmth that soundly resonates with the type of thorough clarity and twice-removed calm only attained through checking out completely.
And we haven’t even touched on the best tracks yet. “Spiked Flower” finds Franklin and Co. in, for them, completely new territory, with a strutting, sunshiny riff straight from the Mid-70s Stones Planet and a mischievous, winking vocal from Franklin that doesn’t quite sound like anything else he’s ever attempted on the mic. “Hey, why don’t you talkkkk toooo meeeeee?” he pleads to a certain spiked flower who’s caught his unrequited fancy, with big hooks oozing out from everywhere. If guitar songs could still be hits, then this would be first in line. Similarly, the deceptively exuberant “Drone Lover” comes on like Big Star at their heady Sister Lovers peak, with a chorus so ebullient and shimmering you may miss sentiments such as “If you slaughter me in the dark from your lazy space in the sky”. Never has Death From Above sounded so sensual and welcoming.”The Lonely Crowd Fades In The Air” contains some of the loneliest loveliness heard on wax in the past bunch of years. “So we’ve stumbled into the end of days, where the future comes home to cry, so choose your colors wisely, cuz’ they’re not the same as the days gone by” laments Franklin as the song’s Byrdsian sweep rains against your window from the greyest of skies.
Just because this record finds the Drivers swerving into a mellower, more mature sound, it doesn’t mean this isn’t some of the most searching, exploratory music they’ve ever attempted. The creeping, spoken-word “Everybody’s Going Somewhere & Nobody’s Going Anywhere” haunts from afar, like a mysterious, muffled explosion heard far off in space. This is traveling music for those standing still, and its Doorsian keys and strangely pounding percussive breaks leave an imprint that lasts long after its 3:50 running time. The same could be said for the album as a whole, with its dreary, lovely sweep resonating in everyday objects even without those headphones on your ears.
Many artists with much larger platforms and wider-reaching marketing budgets have attempted to sum up the malaise of the present moment, but none have done it with the detached, surgical accuracy, the romantic despondence, or the fever dream rays of hope as Swervedriver does on their Future Ruins.
Key Tracks: “Mary Winter”, “The Lonely Crowd Fades In the Air”, “Theeascending”, “Drone Lover”, “Spiked Flower”