Swervedriver - I Wasn't Born To Lose You

by Jim Harris Rating:9.5 Release Date:2015-03-02

"Time heals all exit wounds" goes a great lyric on this new long-awaited release by Swervedriver. (Well, in my neighborhood that's only true if you survive the exit wounds.) Swervedriver, without a new release since 1998, have certainly proven on I wasn't Born to Lose You that they have not only survived but also delivered.

While Swervedriver have always been associated with the shoegazing scene, outside of their first album, Raise (which wasn't particularly focused or interesting), they seemed to be more driven by the fret manipulation than the pedal manipulation. Their sound has always been more oriented towards metal melodies and layers of carefully designed song-structures.

Swervedriver can talk about all their exit-wounds since the 90s, but musically, their early albums suffered from the EP syndrome. It began in the mid-80s when bands, too eager to be heard, rushed out an EP of their best stuff, only to finally get an album contract and have too many not-quite-so-good tracks filling out the album.  

What this caused early in the career of this overlooked band was a lack of interest in what Ejector Seat Reservation and Mezcal Head had to offer. It happened to many bands. It continues to happen. Short stories aren’t novels and they don’t add up to one. 

Like so many of these quality guitar-driven bands, from Ride to Catherine Wheel to MBV, when grunge came along and bitch-slapped the commercial scene with musical-industrial shit-stains and punk-influenced attitude, the record companies didn't know what to do with these loud-melody bands. (Now tell me again why they would want to gaze at their shoes with their backs turned to the audience as they face the drummer? Put the fucking pedals back on a bike...)

Yes, in a span of two weeks in my Midwestern town I saw, at a river venue called Mississippi Nights, three concerts that would transform my view of rock 'n' roll. The first one was Nirvana doing Nevermind, the second was one of the loudest, most brilliant, top-five concerts I have ever seen: Big Country. (If you've never experienced 'Flame of the West' live you might possibly wonder why The Stones insisted this one-hit wonder band open so many of their concerts.)

The third was the Jesus & Mary Chain. They sang about dying like Jesus Christ. (Their set died more like Ricky Gervais at a Baptist Revival). For 15 minutes there was, in those old brick walls, the most sonically apocalyptic sound I had ever heard. (Hang on, I'm getting there...) But there was a problem.

In a venue that holds a thousand people, there were barely a couple hundred. Yes, Nirvana sold out but barely as they were new, and Big Country had Middle America devotees sitting river-side, unable to get in and listening anyway. But at the Jesus & Mary Chain, people were emptying their beers and walking out.

After 15 minutes, the band shrugged, turned their backs to the sparse crowd, played this massive wall of nothing but board-generated noise, played it for 10 more minutes and left the stage. (And history said it was drugs, their infighting, and ego eccentricities? It was timing.)

Well, for Swervedriver, who can craft a brilliant opening track like 'Autodidact', which kicks off this new release, and follow it with the strongest, most powerful set of tracks in their catalog, the timing right now couldn't be better. Shoegaze, pop-metal, industrial, whatever category you care to put Swervedriver in, so be it. I wasn't Born to Lose You is one of the finest albums released so far this year. Musical genres aren’t treated like STDs anymore and there’s a fanbase out there that just wants quality music.

I wasn't Born to Lose You has Swervedriver nailing it top to bottom. The first track is the capstone of a brilliant band. Strong, muscular, with distant vocals, swerving layers of multi-guitars, splatterings of noises, all executed with perfection. ‘Last Rites’, track two, soars with a motorized momentum their early influences, such as Husker Du, would be proud of. (Bob Mould, in fact, might be one of the few still performing at this level). 

The next two tracks, ‘For a Day Like Tomorrow’ and ‘Setting Sun’, have the band settling into a comfortable power-pop sound the like of which we’ve never really heard so clearly from them before, and then the noise thickens and grows darker with ‘Everso’ before transitioning into an hypnotic metal-pop gem, ‘English Subtitles’. 

Add in the funky elements of the attitude-drenched ‘Red Queens Arms Race’ and, while the final three songs aren’t quite as rich as the previous three-quarters of the album, it all adds up to something incredible, something that's been missing since 1998. The time is right for Swervedriver.

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