We know time has not been particularly kind to the Britpop era but the shoegaze scene immediately preceding the Cool Britannia nonsense is enjoying something of a renaissance. Tonight, Oxford based Swervedriver, once shoehorned into this ‘Scene that Celebrates Itself’ genre, kicked-off a new European tour following a sizeable North American trek last autumn, the quartet returning with a handful of spring UK dates celebrating the 25th anniversary of their seminal release ’Mescal Head’. Indeed, the album is to be played in full tonight, preceded by every track from their debut long player ‘Raise’ in what is basically a set of two halves.
The band’s inner core Adam Franklin and Jimmy Hartridge remain, looking pleased as punch, appreciating fans’ continuing appetite to hear their best-known work, and playing to a pretty full Trades’ Club, not at all bad for a Monday night.
Despite dreads long since shorn plus a bit more timber acquired in the intervening years, the band attack ‘Raise’ with gusto, lead off track ‘Sci-Flyer’ still sounding razor sharp whilst taking everyone back to a time when a pint still cost nearer a quid than a fiver. The attritional grooves of ‘Deep Seat’ and ‘Sandblasted’ propel things along nicely before leisurely closer ‘Lead Me Where You Dare’ takes us into the mid-session interval.
Returning to the stage bang on 10pm, it’s soon apparent the ‘Mezcal Head’ numbers have each aged like fine reds with ‘Duel’ and ‘Blowing Cool’ particularly memorable, twin guitars assaulting the senses and washing over you in the former, the thunderously taut bass in the latter hurtling you forward at an ever-increasing velocity. With the noir rockabilly shuffle of ‘Last Train to Satansville’ also providing everyone with a fond trip down amnesia lane, the only thing missing from a personal perspective were killer B-sides ‘The Hitcher’ and the charmingly disarming ‘Cars Converge Over Paris’ but hey, that would be nit-picking.
Let’s hope we see Swervedriver making some festival appearances this summer.
Words - Mike Price
Photo - Paul Clarke
Photo - Paul Clarke