New material from a pioneer of a scene can all but confirm the revival of a genre. Swervedriver were at the forefront of shoegaze in the early 90’s, along with other UK bands such as Ride and Slowdive. Their personal development took onboard American influences Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth, as well as college rock and early grunge, making them somewhat louder and more melody-friendly than their local contemporaries. The likes of The Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam and Nirvana endeavoured to eclipse those UK bands, until My Bloody Valentine’s label Creation Records signed Oasis, and then Brit Pop devoured everything in it’s path.

If you had failed to notice by looking around The Ruby Lounge tonight, the smell will tell you that this place is full of sweaty 30 or 40 something males, maybe hoping to revive the feeling they had as a teen – listening to walls of noise, kicking the crap out of their wardrobes, and ignoring their parents.

Swervedriver’s 4th album I Wasn’t Born To Lose, on Cherry Red Records, is only a couple of months old – it successfully maintains most of the wide-eyed exuberance of their previous releases, shadowing the spectacular efforts of Dinosaur Jr.’s comeback albums Beyond and Farm. The new sound combines bright melodies and thrilling guitar breaks, briefly touching on psych-blues for a song or two… all presented through snarling guitars and pent-up passion. There appears less urgency for them, now, to jump to a different chord structure, impressing through understatement and patience with touches of flair and technical skill. They appear more at ease and in control of their chosen form of expression. Does this make them any less thrilling?



Somewhere along the line, all bands agreed to start their live sets with the first song from their latest album. The relatively gentle ‘Autodidact’ is followed by ‘For Seeking Heat’ from their second album Mescal Head, which quickly cranks up the volume – chugging heavy chords and a frenetic tempo expose the extra vitality that their earlier work possesses. From that same album, appropriately, ‘Never Lose That Feeling’ follows – but new tune ‘Last Rites’ blows it out of the water with sun soaked layers of guitar and optimistic vocals washing over sporadic bursts of rapid drumming. It almost sounds like Doves. Added layers of vocal from Steve George are sadly missing tonight, but the recognisable face of Supergrass bassist Mick Quinn fills in amicably.

‘Setting Sun’ brings back the summery, Instagram filtered vibe for 3 minutes, crafting the right mood in which to enjoy the contrasting debut album favourite ‘Rave Down’ – the intro prompts the first few rows to bow their heads in unison, as if instantly transported back to their youth, when they had enough hair to cover their faces. Its conclusion brings by far the biggest crowd reaction of the night so far.

‘These Times’ very much echoes the Oasis era in which it was conceived. The new songs continue to hold their own, but the older material is winning on points. The slower, Foo Fighters-esque ‘Lone Star’ pulls a thrilling sucker punch on behalf of Nu Swervedriver; Classic Swervedriver hit back in equal measure with ‘The Birds’ – “Make an electric connection as lightening strikes angel wings not once but twice”. The song ends with an inventive and thrilling wah-wah laden solo from frontman Adam Franklin.

‘Son of Mustang Ford’ pins us all against the ropes with a series of body blows. Woozy, reflective, new album finale ‘I Wonder’ soundtracks our staggering about the ring in dazed confusion. Thankfully, there’s an encore – personal favourite from the latest album ‘Everso’ puts up a brave fight, but ‘Duel’ throws the knockout blow, sending the crowd into a frenzy. Drummer Mikey Jones and our singer share a smile during that final tune as they watch the mosh pit. “You’ve been away for so long…” is a line that we should really be chanting to them.

Admittedly, the UK shoegaze scene completely passed me by the first time around – my sixth-form classmates were all over it, but despite their eager championing of those bands, I was drawn more to all things American after living on a strict diet of R.E.M. That, and the chef that I worked with was force-feeding me Acid Jazz. Now, I have a chance to make amends. The psych revival is spawning a number of potentially successful spin-off’s who are equally into loud guitars, but don’t care so much for drugs and ponchos. Standing motionless onstage and doing your thing while wearing your favourite t-shirt and a generic pair of jeans is more than acceptable… although, I’m half-expecting the checkered-shirt grunge clan to stick their boots in again.

Swervedriver’s new album is great enough to attract young followers and inspire another generation of introverted noise fans. This night, psychologically, made me feel 20 years younger. If I could have a word with my 16 year old self, I’d tell him to ignore the chef.

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Peter Rea

I like to go see fresh new music at Manchester's superb selection of smaller venues, and then share my enthusiasm.