Swervedriver – Raise / Mezcal Head reissues

I wrote this review for the forthcoming issue of Skyscraper Magazine:

Though Swervedriver hailed from Reading, England and were signed to Creation Records in the UK, then considered to be the Mecca of all things shoegaze, their early sound owes much more to influences on the American side of the pond. It’s great to finally see these long out-of-print records reissued on Hi-SpeedSoul. Their 1991 debut Raise blends the raw power of The Stooges, Hendrix, and Nuggets-era garage rock with a solid dose of Dinosaur, Jr. Lyrically, Raise conjures up images of driving fast on wide open desert roads. Virtually every song on the album mentions cars or the act of driving, highlights including the piledriving debut single “Son Of Mustang Ford” and the crashing anthem “Rave Down,” which garnered a decent amount of American radio airplay, when the band was big enough to land a spot opening up for Soundgarden on a U.S. tour. Adam Franklin’s silky smooth vocal delivery, somewhere between Hendrix and Arthur Lee of Love, perfectly matched his band’s neo-psychedelic road rock sound. The reissue tacks on four B-sides, including the stunning UK B-side “Kill The Superheroes,” which holds its own with anything on Raise. As great as Raise is, the 1993 follow up Mezcal Head is even better. Produced by Alan Moulder, the man behind the desk on other seminal albums of the era, such as My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless and The Boo Radley’s Giant Steps, Mezcal Head is somehow even louder, cleaner sounding, and more wide open than on Raise. To use a Stooges analogy, if Raise is The Stooges, Mezcal Head is definitely Fun House! Fortunately, this reissue includes the 11-minutes plus version of “Never Lose That Feeling,” a song which was on the original American version of Mezcal Head, but not available on the UK album, as it was a non-LP single there. That song perfectly captures the essence of Mezcal Head with it’s loud and hypnotic guitar sound, Franklin’s spot on melodies, and a insane almost jazz-like instrumental flurry at the end. Other high points include the punishing “Last Train To Satansville,” which combines a pulp fiction-like narrative with a punishing guitar attack, and the stunning single “Duel,” which smokes like a modern day update of The Who’s “I Can See For Miles” with a sea of fuzzed out guitars. The three bonus tracks, including the super poppy “Planes Over The Skyline,” are also great.

Note: The label just sent digital files for review, but I’m told that the reissues are quite attractive digipacks, so I may geek out and buy them at some point.

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