LIVE REVIEW: Swervedriver @ Factory Theatre, Sydney 25/06/16

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Guitars, amps, effects pedals and volume were the order of the night for Swervedriver’s return to Australian shores. Local rock ’n’ roll fringe dwellers The Holy Soul were the best of the support acts with a raw, brittle and at times brilliantly inventive set. They showed once more why they are the city’s best kept secret with their fusion of Pere Ubu, Television, The Gun Club and Can.

Grinding Eyes look like a band who worship at the altar of BRMC, The Cult, The Black Angels etc. With a psychedelic video backdrop and plenty of dry ice they hit some compelling rhythmic grooves but it all felt too much like style over substance in terms of their songs. A band to watch nonetheless.

Sounds Like Sunset, like The Holy Soul, are inner west live perennials and their short set showcased their five-piece wall of sound approach. High volume gave their songs an eye of the hurricane feel with Dave Challinor’s sleepy, melodic vocals drifting above the thunderous squalls and providing the perfect segue to the headliner.

Swervedriver have managed the transition from reunited touring act to a fully functioning band with the release of last year’s I Wasn’t Born To Lose You. Opening with Autodidact, that album’s first track, they immediately showed that the newer songs have earned the right to sit amongst such iconic songs as Rave Down, Son Of Mustang Ford and Last Train To Satansville. The band, featuring their newest recruit in bassist Mickey Quinn (Supergrass), included half of their most recent album and though the songs were more nuanced and less visceral than the band’s 90s output and the attention of the audience ebbed and flowed through the night, they showed they still possess the key elements of their sound – inventiveness and propulsion. Adam Franklin remains a man of few words though he did make a joke at the expense of “the worst fucking band” Guns N Roses and made a sly and topical reference to their homeland as an insular island nation. This was their best Sydney show of their three since 2011.

 Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: Swervedriver | Deep Wound

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Swervedriver return with their first single in 15 years. Deep Wound has been floating around for a while now with the footage in the clip below taken from their studio performance for radio station KEXP in Seattle back in April 2012. The single is available now via iTunes, Amazon and the band’s Bandcamp page backed with a dub version called Dub Wound. The single includes backing vocals by Ride’s Mark Gardener and was mixed in part by him. Word is there is a new album coming from the band in 2014.

EIGHT DAYS A WEEK: September 20th, 2013

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Another week of shake-ups in the local festival scene here in Australia with the cancellation of Harvest Festival and the probably not coincidental announcement that AJ Maddah (Soundwave, Harvest) had become a partner in Big Day Out with Ken West and US company C4. It seems a bit strange that one week Maddah is bemoaning the indie-centric BDO lineup as one reason for Harvest’s slow ticket sales and then the next week he cancels the Harvest dates and the BDO partnership is made public. Obviously the deal would have been in negotiation and discussion for a long period and Maddah would have been privy to the BDO line-up a long time ago. Regardless it could be a good thing in the long run. The BDO assimilates more indie type acts to balance the rock elements and Soundwave becomes the premier hard rock/metal touring festival. Laneway is growing every year and that too should benefit from Harvest being off the calendar. Speaking of Laneway, their first line-up announcement happens next Tuesday.

In terms of new releases this week there only a couple of notable ones that have caught my ear. The wonderful folk voice of Nathaniel Rateliff, Elvis Costello & The Roots’ LP sounds like it might deliver, Mark Lanegan’s covers album Imitations (he should be singing the Great American Songbook, not Rod) and Crystal Stilts maintain their quality output on Nature Noir.

In my daily trawl of the net and via the deluge of band, record company and publicist emails there are often bands that jump out as having something that catches your ear before you have a chance to hit delete or skip. Two in particular stood out this week in The Golden Awesome out of Wellington, NZ and The Grand Rapids from Melbourne, AU. Both deal in psychedelic flavoured rock and shoegaze but they’re coming at it from different angles. See what you think.

Next week Swervedriver kick off their Australian tour playing their seminal album Raise in full plus various other highlights from the back catalogue.

September
Thu 26th – Brisbane – The Zoo
+ support We All Want To / Mosman Alder
Fri 27th – Sydney – Metro Theatre
+ supports Charlie Horse / Greta Mob (Bom Aterg)
Sat 28th – Melbourne – Corner Hotel
+ supports Iowa / White Walls
Sun 29th – Melbourne – Northcote Social Club
+ supports Infinite Void / Lunaire
October
Wed 2nd – Adelaide – The Gov
+ supports Horror My Friend / No Action
Thu 3rd – Perth* – Rosemount Hotel

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LIVE REVIEW: Swervedriver @ Metro Theatre, Sydney 18/02/11

written by Chris Familton

There was a fair amount of anticipation about the return of Swervedriver to these shores – in terms of whether they would live up to the expectation of those who revered the albums but had never seen them live, mixed with a small dose of skepticism about reforming bands trading on past glories. Albums like Raise and Mezcal Head are held up as totemic bodies of work in the shoegaze and modern psych rock worlds and widely considered one of those bands that never garnered the fame their music deserved.

A new generation of musicians exploring similar sonic territory were up first in the shape of The Laurels who are demanding a wider audience every time they play. The great thing about them is their refusal to oversimplify their songs in the name of greater accessibility to the ears of the public. Their songs are soaked in melodies and hooky choruses but for the most part they are buried beneath the washes of distortion and tremolo bar wooziness but firmly held together by their fantastic rhythm section. Dreamy noise can sound incredible when it is anchored by solid rhythms and there were no doubt many first time Laurelites who went away buzzed out by their music. They showed no sign of nervousness supporting a band that must be an influence on them, instead they showed they can do it just as well.

From the kids to the longer-toothed, it was Tumbleweed who got to bring some rock to the Metro stage with a typically bold set of stoner rock. They showed flashes of shambolic excitement like singer Richie falling backwards from the monitors and into the drum kit. It was hilarious but also showed, literally, how much they throw into their shows. Since the early 90s (with a break of a few years) they’ve been delivering their brand of MC5, Mudhoney and Sabbath rock with an energy that makes it still sounds vibrant. They played like they were the headliners – a lesson for all support bands.

Swervedriver on the other hand played like they were desperate to get back to the hotel to bed. It didn’t help that for the first third of their set the sound was woeful. It wasn’t loud enough, the drums were mixed like they were playing a stadium and any distinction between the guitars of Adam Franklin and Jimmy Hartridge was inaudible. When you get the guitar mix wrong with music  like this then it is never going to sound good. Things finally did improve and when the band hit songs like Raise’s Rave Down, Son Of Mustang Ford and a mesmerizing version of Deep Seat, reminding us how brilliant the songs were that the band wrote at their peak.

The flip-side of those golden moments was a fair amount of average songs that littered their set. Songs that resorted to chugging guitars or a lack of the dynamics and changes of gears that make them such an interesting band. Those less impressive moments only served to highlight the distinct lack of personality the band members exude on stage. Stationary, unsmiling for the most part and little more than the occasional ‘thanks’ were all that they could muster. For music that is built on rushes of energy and atmospheric guitar playing most would expect and surely demand a more visceral experience.

When Swervedriver were great they were exhilarating but those moments were few and far between, leaving a taste of disappointment in the air for some. After an epic Never Lose That Feeling/Never Learn Duress many of the crowd persevered with calls for a 2nd encore but any return to the stage would have done nothing to erase that feeling that the show didn’t live up to expectations.

this review first appeared on FasterLouder