Published on March 18th, 2015 | by Craig Silliphant0
Swervedriver – I Wasn’t Born to Lose You
Whether it’s a trip back in time or a new voyage to outer space, England’s Swervedriver have released their first new album in 15 years.
Though they didn’t attain the heights of some of their Britpop peers, and were certainly the most unCreation sounding Creation Records band, Oxford, England’s Swervedriver was one of my favourite imports from across the pond back in the day. Maybe it had something to do with how they framed the shoegaze aesthetic without letting go of heavy guitar work that could cut like a wild machete through the tangle of fuzzier elements. Maybe it was their reputation for “bringing the car song into the shoegaze era”; Primal Scream may have released ‘Vanishing Point,’ but Swervedriver was the committed purveyor of cinematic music about cars (among other forms of transportation, including space travel and even Superman’s flight path). Maybe it was also getting the chance to see them live in their prime, at some now legendary shows across the prairie, which I can’t say for Ride, My Bloody Valentine, or some of the other amazing bands from that time. Swervedriver may not have gotten as big as some of those bands, but they brought it to the middle of nowhere and dropped it on our doorstep, which caused an immediate connection for me and other music geeks at the time.
So, needless to say, I’ve been following frontman Adam Franklin’s career over the years, from Toshack Highway to Bolts of Melody, and it’s all great stuff. I even got a chance to interview Franklin a year or so ago, a bucket list, meet-your-idol interview. But the needle really moved for me when it was announced that there would be new music from Swervedriver in the form of a new LP called ‘I Wasn’t Born to Lose You.’ I finally got my hot little hands on a copy and gave it a first spin with some measure of trepidation. After all, while the album was unfairly maligned, their last effort, 1998’s 99th Dream just wasn’t a strong enough record to see them poke through to a more public consciousness. Some 15 years later, how would new material hold up?
Swervedriver fans can relax in the backseat and let Franklin and company take the wheel; ‘I Wasn’t Born to Lose You’ is an excellent entry into the Swervedriver canon. It’s almost as if their sound was resting in hypersleep stasis like Ripley in Aliens, undisturbed until it was discovered floating aimlessly through space. There’s not really a new approach at all; a lot of this album sounds like it could have been made somewhere between ‘Raise’ and ‘Mescal Head.’ That said, it doesn’t eschew their more mellowed out later material that started with ‘Ejector Seat Reservation’ and ended with ‘99th Dream.’ If anything, this album is the crossroads between the two eras, taking their later sound into account, while also leaning into their heavier work.
Filled with, you guessed it, more lyrics about cars, ‘I Wasn’t Born to Lose You’ is a gas tank full of jangling melody, that make you feel like a dog with your head stuck out the car window, tongue out and the wind in your face. The trunk is stuffed with sweeping and cinematic guitars and those hazy shoegaze texture bends that give the impression that the song, or time itself, is slowing down, just for a moment. Snapshots of a summer evening, the sky going orange as the sun goes down, tripping road-tripping teenagers stuffed into a car, radio cranked, blasting down the highway like Death has no dominion. Oddly enough, their version of the 90s sound hasn’t dated, for me at least. It still sounds effortlessly cool, the way your Dad still sees Steve McQueen. Simply put, ‘I Wasn’t Born to Lose You’ doesn’t break much new ground, but it’s still a new Swervedriver album, and a tremendous one at that.