The early 90s hatched some of the most influential guitar-based bands of our time, bands that continue to resonate, if not pave the way for inspiring young musos trying to hit the mark. In the early 90s, the UK delivered some of the best post-rock bands, many forgotten but a few who continue to claim their importance. One such band is Oxford’s Swervedriver. Returning to Australia to celebrate their 2015 release “I Wasn’t Born To Lose You”, they prove tonight that good music is timeless and if you keep at it long enough, like fashion, you will certainly trend again.
From the front bar, the almost uncomfortably experimental frequencies of EXEK could be heard piercing through cracks in the walls as we replaced our glass pints for plastic ones (a common event at the Corner Hotel) to enter the band room.
Lead support came from Sydney drone-rockers Grinding Eyes, who we last experienced supporting Jesus and The Mary Chain, at Melbourne’s Forum. Playing out a strong set on the comparatively tiny stage in the Corner Bandroom, Grinding Eyes, were a perfect fit to the main act. The lead singer slurred his vocals with an almost Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie tone, while the drummer sometimes out-classing the rest of the band with impressive drum syncopation and rhythms, helped take the set to some worthy musical peaks. The opening track, extended around 8 minutes, it was delivered with great force, and a great way to get a few punters hold off on their chit-chat.
With only a half-murmured introduction to the band just before their last song, there was not a word said in-between songs, only the air-filled sounds of swirling guitars with a fair hint of psychedelia, enough to buzz the crowd and warm the ears for what would be a very loud Swervedriver to follow.
It’s been 25 years since Adam Franklin (vocals/guitar) and Jimmy Hartridge (guitar) released “Raise”, signed to one of the most important record labels of our time, Creation Records, it was an album that put two fingers up to the, then popular Brit pop movement, instead releasing a debut full grunt and guitar grit that very un-British. Following the release of 3 solid albums over the next few years, the band took a hiatus only to have the two key players of Swervedriver surprising there die-hard fans with the release of “I Wasn’t Born To Lose You”, in 2015, an album that stayed true to their sound but mellowed with age.
Tonight, surrounded by a majority 40 something men, the relenting sound of The Velvet’s ”Venus in Furs” sluggishly thumped through the speakers while the band staggered on stage, looking older, content and focussed, Franklin offering a subtle nod to the crowd who by now, were rushed toward the front of the stage. Joining them on this recent tour was a very familiar face to us, Micky Quinn, one time, one-third of Brit-pop leaders Supergrass, the influence of Quinn’s fluid and melodic bass style could be heard imperceptibly influencing the rhythm section of the output tonight. For us fans of Supergrass (no doubt a few tonight) this was an unexpected treat and added something special to the gig. On drums was Mikey Jones, who is also drummer for Franklin’s side band/project Bolts of Melody, his style, appeared awkward but he could thump his skins to tea.
From the moment the first few chords struck out, it was clear the sound wasn’t quite right, the first 3 songs washed out the drums, bass and vocals while the guitars overwhelmed the PA, it didn’t sound pretty, even factoring in that Swervedriver tend to lap up their intensity of guitar effects. To the relief of a few of us at the front, the sound resolved during their first classic hit of the night, “Never Loose That Feeling”, it’s thumbing bass finally breaking through the crashing guitars. The intensity of the set grew as each song pelted out and high jacked our ears, they always like to play loud and tonight was no exception, “Rave On”, from their debut Raise, sounded timeless and had the audience go bananas.
Tracks from their latest album were slotted in-between their back catalogue and sounded even better live, latest single “Setting Sun” showing the band happy to strip back the guitar effects for a more melodic and mature sound, provided a bit of relief from expectation. The band’s biggest hit of the 90s “Song of Mustang Ford” had all the peripheral punters completely immersed in the intensity of the songs driving force, clearly the one song that converted fans back in the early 90s, live it sounded gutsy, brutal and powerful.
The Encore sealed the night with two stand out Swervedriver songs, “Last Train to Satanville” bombarded the crowd with its ferocity with Franklin’s voice sounded just as it did on its studio recording all that time ago, Quinn’s bass playing at this point was thumping, finding its stride against the swirling guitars that circled the band room. Closing out with “Duel”, another of their landmark tracks, the PA was about to burst as where our ears, and as the song played out with many necks sore from so much head moshing, our ears buzzed way into the night as we were reminded just how bloody good the 90s were. Epic set from a band that never quite played by the rules, yet quietly influenced so many.