Mezcal Head (A&M ’93) Rating: A-
After reading several glowing reviews and hearing some Catherine Wheel comparisons I just had to check these guys out. And sure enough, Swervedriver does have a terrific sound highly reminiscent of Catherine Wheel, as they also owe much to both the dreampop (i.e. "shoegazer") and grunge camps (comparisons to Dinosaur Jr. and Smashing Pumpkins are also appropriate). These guys deserve to be played loud, the best way to appreciate the band’s surging wall of sound, which is anchored by driving, hard-charging rhythms and jagged yet melodic guitars that are laced with feedback. The band’s alternately trippy and pulverizing sound sometimes drowns out the laid-back, unemotional vocals of Adam Franklin, but they often achieve an epic middle ground between loud and soft, rarely forgetting to provide a singable chorus in the process. Like Catherine Wheel, the mix works thrillingly well at times (sorry about the repeated comparison, but if you like one band then you should definitely check out the other), though to my mind Swervedriver’s songwriting doesn't have quite as much character, nor do they handle the beauty side of the equation quite as splendidly. In addition, it must be said that some of these songs (particularly "Duress" and "Never Lose That Feeling/Never Learn") seem to go on and on, and that the album itself is probably longer than it needs to be (61:20) given the samey nature of many of these effects-laden songs. Still, at their focused best on songs such as “Duel” (one of the best songs of the decade), “Last Train To Satansville,” and "Girl On A Motorbike," Swervedriver makes quite a seductive and exciting racket. Alas, like Catherine Wheel, Swervedriver are absurdly underrated, as this album unfortunately failed to find a significant audience. Their other albums are hard to find and expensive, while record company difficulties have also hindered them. Here's hoping that we haven't heard the last of Swervedriver; in the interim I'll be on the lookout for Raise (1991), Ejector Seat Reservation (1995), and 99th Dream (1998).

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