Sound — 9
Back when I was young I considered myself pretty underground, or as the kids say these days, street'. I would attempt to impress babes by throwing around little indicators of my cred. They would of course come running into my arms after said cred was revealed. Many swooned over me. One of my favourite words was shoegaze, which I would invariably mumble with a sniff and jolting nod of the head - a touch I was always prudent to add because it made me seem so much more aloof. Because as everyone knows, reticence is cool. Little did I know that I had once again I had become the victim of a pyramid scam. Not really. I had just used another meaningless journalistic term created by the whacky stoners at NME or some other equally reputable publication. Like post-electronic-minimilastic-downlifting-trance. Actually let me clarify that: shoegaze is not a meaningless term, more of a misused one. Many bands ostensibly associated with the movement get mislabeled and so when you say to someone oh such-and-such are shoegaze they think they sound like Catherine Wheel or something. Such is the fate of Swervedriver. The Swervies were one of the many great bands on Creation, and unfortunately like many of their label-mates, have been somewhat forgotten. Consequently they're often labeled a shoegaze' band, but in reality are about as shoegaze as Dinosaur Jr. Actually even arguing that Swervedriver are different from shoegaze' is another of those redundant music-nerd arguments. They're basically just a great, underplayed rock band. If you are desperate for some sort classification, I'll give you the one given by singer Adam Franklin: space travel rock'n'roll.
Lyrics — 8
A good way to think of Mezcal Head is the perfect driving album: pounding rhythms, laid-back but tuneful singing, and warm distorted-guitar melodies - all perfect for long (and usually fast) drives. Effects often feature as part of the guitar sound as a wall-of-sound wash like early Dinosaur Jr and My Bloody Valentine. Jez Hindmarsh is incredibly powerful on drums, giving the album much of its propulsive force. Lead single Duel possibly encapsulates the sound of the album better than the other tracks: a tense angular verse that builds into distorted punch-in-the-face rocking before release into a coolly melodic chorus. Last Train to Satansville is another great rocker that forgoes a normal conclusion for 3 minutes of wah-hysterics. Not to mention those funny 'tough guy' lyrics. Seemingly normal' songs erupt into distorted, pounding brilliance, continually increasing the intensity level with apparent effortlessness. And what makes this fresh is the lack of the usual trite attempts at power' or intensity' - wanky solos, melodramatic screaming, triplet palm muting at 600 bpm, pulling rock' faces. For Seeking Heat, A Change is Gonna Come and MM Abduction are all fantastic rock songs. Never Lose That Feeling has a nice Kevin Shields tremolo-bend chorus before (at least on some versions) dissolving into a neat extended drone instrumental complete with saxophone! Girl on a Motorbike is drenched in effects and slides along sexily. In what is possibly the only sluggish moment, the introduction to "Duress" probably drags a little where other drone sections mesmorize.
Overall Impression — 9
In a perfect world Swervedriver would have been one of the biggest bands of the 90s. Maybe in some alternative universe there is a band called Straightwalker or something who ruled the charts with their songs First Bus to Godtown and Embrace. Creation did an incredible job of mismanaging Swervedriver during their tenure on the label, although they did manage to score single of the week in NME with "Duel", and support Smashing Pumpkins. Their efforts did not go unnoticed by the majors, but almost immediately after signing to Geffen the band were dropped, victims of the major-label downsizing of the mid-90s. In the modern world, where chart success appears just the click of a button away, this sad fate seems incomprehensible. Thankfully the internet, at once both the apparent bane and backbone of the music industry, makes unearthing the forgotten easier. So, go forth! and enjoy some space travel rock'n'roll. Maybe you'll find that alternative universe.