San Diego Radio Sucks Quite A Bit

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Top 30 + 1 of the 1990s - #30 - Swervedriver / Raise (1991)

Full disclosure:  I'm writing this 33 years after its initial release, and I cannot stand when sites like Pitchfork review albums that came out before the reviewer was born.  Music is so much about a time and place.  Reviewing something that came out years ago in today's climate can be ingenuine.

Having said that, I'm going to sort of do that now.  And I did discover this album several years after it came out.  In my defense, I did name this as one of the best albums of the 1990s back in the early oughts.  The fact that I still spin it today speaks to its lasting impression in the shoegaze genre as well as its impression on me.

Back in 1999, I got a burn of this (remember those kids?).  I don't know if I'd even heard it all the way through before I started listening to it in my car incessantly.  How many times I'd heard it before I broke up with the first woman I was engaged to, but after she left, it was all I could listen to for weeks.  This is not a frequent thing for me.  Never was before, still isn't decades later*.

I remember I'd just moved into a new place on Kansas Street, not sure who burned this for me but I'm thinking it was my buddy Bamoe from OB.  I can recall getting in the driver's seat, heaving a huge sigh and thinking, "OK, this is the beginning of something new."  Pressed play and didn't press eject for well over a month.

I've realized over the years that Raise is mostly a collection of previously-released EPs, but that doesn't take away from what this album contributed to my life and to the shoegaze canon.  Swervedriver weren't your typical band in the genre.  They touched upon the blissed-out ethereal feel that bands like Spiritualizied and Verve were emanating, but approached everything through the lens of a much harder edge.  

The music is joyous but raw. The opening fuzzed-out chords of Sci-Flyer and that phaser / flanger let you know you'd better buckle the fuck up and strap in for the ride.  It drives hard enough to almost seem like it's driving itself off the rails.  Pile-Up is similarly driving if not as distorted, while Son of Mustang Ford picks the pace back up and pushes the urgency to another level.

Deep Seat and Rave Down provide a brief respite here.  It's not that they're mellow by any means.  The urgency is just in another direction, less obvious.  The tracks have more of a groove to them and more personality in a way.

The album rounds out with four less memorable tracks to be honest.  They're as important in the shaping of the album as the rest but mostly serve to help you come down from the intensity that was setup on the first half.

I met Adam Franklin once.  It was at Hammersmith Odeon back in 2001 after Spiritualized's set.  He was in the lobby and my friend "Bill from Colorado" as Jason referred to him pointed him out.  I asked him if he wanted to talk to him and he shook his head.  "Nah, I got nothin' to say to that guy," he said.

I walked up to him, he had two very hot women on either side of him, and said, "Hey man, I just wanted to say thanks."  He looked at me with a look of genuine curiosity and asked, "Who do you think I am?"  I said, "You're the guy from Swervedriver, right?"  At which point he acknowledged it, told me he'd be playing San Diego soon, and I told him I'd be there (I was).

One of the women was super wasted and asked, "And who are you?"  I just put my palms up, smiled, said, "Hey, I'm nobody," and walked away.

* The only other album I can think of that I've been able to listen to on repeat like this was Neanderthal by Denmark's Spleen United (2008).