Review: Swervedriver—Future Ruins

by Ken Jobe (@booksofjobe)

Oxford’s Swervedriver have always occupied an odd space in the shoegaze landscape, despite having helped practically invent the genre. Their sophomore release, 1993’s Mezcal Head, is one of the 90’s definitive shoegaze albums as well as a top-rated album in indie rock and pop circles, yet Swervedriver never seemed to get their due alongside similar bands of the era like Lush, Ride, or My Bloody Valentine.

Record company woes and burnout from the road (among other things) led to an extended hiatus that many perceived to be the permanent breakup of the band, but Swervedriver re-emerged in 2008 in what turned out to be not a mere novelty, one-off reunion, but an actual continuance of what they’d started back in 1990. The band gigged fairly regularly from 2008 to 2014, when they finally released their first new LP in 17 years with I Wasn’t Born to Lose You—an album that surpassed expectations, showing that despite the long span of years, guitar duo Adam Franklin and Jimmy Hartridge hadn’t lost a step. Now they’re back with studio LP number six, Future Ruins, out January 25.

Swervedriver—Future Ruins (Dangerbird Records, 2019)

From the first few seconds of opening track Mary Winter, it quickly becomes apparent that Franklin and Hartridge (rounded out by bassist Mick Quinn and Mikey Jones on drums) are once again in fine form.

Swervedriver have always had a unique sound among shoegazers—more guitar driven, yet at the same time leaning heavily on pop influences—and Mary Winter is a perfect example. At home on any Swervedriver album, Mary Winter is a guitar-laden pop song that still manages to eschew pop ideals, in part by being devoid of a conventional chorus.

And so Future Ruins goes—familiar and recognizable, while also subverting expectations and subtly pushing the envelope. From the eerily beautiful title track to the fuzzed-out, overdriven bursts of guitar on Theeascending, the rich instrumentation and spoken word delivery on Everybody is Going Somewhere & No One’s Going Anywhere, and they hypnotic, melancholy closer Radio-Silent, Future Ruins is a strong album from beginning to end that should leave listeners satisfied that Swervedriver still have plenty of gas in the tank artistically speaking, and despite the dark, foreboding lyrical tone of the record, one can’t help but feel optimistic that some of their best material may be yet to come.

7.5/11 Ringing Ears