Album Listening Club – I Wasn’t Born To Lose You discussion

I first became aware of Swervedriver sometime around 1991 or ’92 when their U.S. label A&M was heavily promoting them. I was working in college radio, and found out that Swervedriver were from the same town as one of my other musical loves of the time, Ride. Swervedriver had a huge wall-of-guitars way of crafting their songs back then, and sonically recalled – to me – a bit of Ride here, some My Bloody Valentine there. Their first album, Raise, was a fantastic blend of guitars bordering on noise, but stayed within pop convention. They were soon one of my favorite bands. The lyrics bordered on beat poetry (“Ex-cop ’round the block, rockin’ chair, suckin’ beer/He blasts flies with his gun, ’cause swatting’s no fun” from “Rave Down”), which was another big draw for me.

The band released Mezcal Head in 1993 and I loved it as well. The noise factor was dialed down a bit, but they retained the machine-gun snare and swirl of guitars. Their 1995 album Ejector Seat Reservation wasn’t released in the US, and I pretty much missed their last album before they went on hiatus, 1998’s 99th Dream. I was in my “dark” phase where I wasn’t listening to or finding much new music. I can’t remember when I acquired the CD, but it felt like a big musical departure. I didn’t dig 99th Dream at the time, but I’ve warmed to it. I still don’t think that I’ve ever actually heard Ejector Seat Reservation.

The band re-formed in 2008 and played some reunion shows and tours, and this year released their first full album of new material in almost 20 years, I Wasn’t Born To Lose You – the album you voted to discuss! So, let’s get to it. I’ll put my comments in the…comments.

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March 23, 2015 at 7:43 am

Swervedriver has been a band always on the edge of my consciousness. I was into plenty of shoegaze bands like MBV, Curve, Lush, Chapterhouse and Catherine Wheel but SD never quite jelled for me. I was also heavy into the alternative music so was listening to many more bands besides shoegaze bands. My first exposure were their initial music videos on MTV's 120 minutes show and those didn't compel me to check them out further.

I've also seen them live at Coachella in '09 when a friend who is a huge fan couldn't make it & asked me to see them in his stead, which of course I did. Unfortunately, I was not all that impressed since the songs all sounded the same to me. Which wasn't too surprising since I had that impression from their albums.

Which brings me to their current album which I feel doesn't veer off their beaten musical path much at all, which isn't a bad thing. I really like 'Red Queen Arms Race' since it has a bit more of a harder, psychedelic sound to the shoegaze sheen. 'English Subtitles' has a very pretty, beachboy-esque jangly sound. Many of the songs are more upbeat and have a jangly, beautiful sound to them. On the third go around I'm finding the album starting to grow on me. I haven't paid much attention to the lyrics though, which is rather typical with shoegaze. But some of that is because I can't decipher the lyrics quite a bit due to the vocals being obscured by the music. I've not been a big lyrics person though through my life, so that's not an issue.

I can see myself listening to this every once in awhile. And since I have a voracious music talent it won't be more than that. I'm glad I hung in there and gave this more listens.

March 27, 2015 at 5:18 am

'voracious music talent' should be 'voracious music palette'.

-Your Older Brother, Samreply
March 30, 2015 at 7:33 pm

Very excited to hear this album, it starts off with "Autodidact," and it's a fine tune, but if I'm being honest, I was hoping for more of a burner right out of the gate. Something like "Last Rites" or "Deep Wound," although I understand why "Deep Wound" isn't the opener. Album sequencing is hard. 🙂

The album itself as a whole doesn't have some of the pounding grit of "Last Train to Satansville" or distorted euphoria of "Rave Down," but it's been 20 years, right? The production is cleaner in many ways, but that isn't to say that they've toned down or turned down. There are still swamps of distortion to wade through, along with other effects that help identify the Swervedriver sound. Adam Franklin's voice and cadence weave the poetry throughout the tunes once again, and it's almost like it hasn't been 20 years after all.

I agree with August that the album is a grower. I wasn't disappointed on first listen, but it didn't quite sit right. Actually, I blame my indifference on poor speakers and streaming compression. It's quite different than blasting a record or CD through proper speakers – "administered at the proper volume", as I like to say. And the proper volume for a Swervedriver record is loud, let's face it. There's a lot bubbling under and around that if you don't have the proper bass response or amplification, you're just not going to hear it. Laptop speakers do not do Swervedriver justice. I can't imagine trying to master a record today. The "drive test" used to be just that – how did the record sound driving around listening to it a cassette out of car speakers? Now it's the iPod or laptop test, and the speakers are just so much less than car speakers, even.

Also like August, I haven't delved into (deciphered?) some of the lyrics yet, and much for his same reasons. I was the same way with previous Swervedriver records as well. I'll admit to the lyrics for "Last Train" catching my ear straightaway, though, as they're so up front and crucial to the feel of the song.

Favorite tracks are "Deep Wound" for the return of that machine gun snare, "Lone Star" for the glide in the verses, "I Wonder?" for the progression from the washed-out smoldering distortion to the crescendo that ends the album. Let's hope this isn't the last we've seen of Swervedriver. It sounds like they've still got plenty of gas in the tank.

-Your Older Brother, Samreply
April 23, 2015 at 8:02 pm

Glad you liked it! I probably won't come back to this record as much as, say, Raise or Mezcal Head, but it's a good extension to their catalog, for sure.

May 27, 2015 at 5:06 am

Listened to it again after reading your reply Sam. I enjoyed it even more. Who knows, it might eventually become a fave of the year but we'll see. It is only April after all. Amazing how much great music has been released so far!

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