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Crash Politics

Kings of the road or a load of old bollards? Michael Bonner hitches a lift with Swervedriver and finds them more than happy to drive the wrong way up a one way street.

S we r v e d r i v e r. What a great name. In fact, at the end of the day, it's a positively magnificent name. Think about it. Go on. Roll the name around on your tongue. Swervedriver. Fast cars, excessive speed limits, near fatal road accidents. It's the coda by which most American rock bands claim to live, but really - and this is big secret time - most of 'em are too piss-wimp liberal chicken shit to even try. I mean, can you imagine what would happen if Jon Bon Jovi or Blackie lawless was in a band called Swervedriver? There'd be blood all over the place. Newspaper headlines would scream out something along the lines of 'Swervedriver Singer Shoots Sixty In Supermarket' - they'd all go fuckin' mental.
As it happens, this is as far from the reality of the situation as possible, as the real Swervedriver are four awfully decent chaps called Adam, Jim, Adi and Graham (or even, if you prefer, Bingo, Drooper, Fleagle and Snorkthey're that decent). And they're not in the least bit mean 'n reck/ess 'n dangerous to life and limb. Anything but as it goes. This, of course, came as an unrelenting disappointment when I met them in Manchester, in the course of reviewing them live last year, where I expected to share needles, groupies and wild on-the-road yarns with them. As it was, my disappointment was abated by the sheer quality of their manners and civility and we spent several very pleasant hours drinking a few ales and playing a video game called Splatterhouse which I heartily recommend to anyone who find themselves in the area of that top Manamian night-spot, the Boardwalk. So, listen, to business. Swervedriver have a new ep called Sandblasted which, funnily enough is as good a description of the material as you or I will ever hear: it has indeed been well and truly sand blasted. Sandblasted by guitars, sandblasted by drums, sandblasted by bass, sandblasted, strangely enough, even by Adam's lazy daze vocals. There are actually moments (near apocalyptic moments, you understand) when they sound like they were playing chainsaws in the recording studios - surely a sign of Swervedriver's death-defying coolness and their ability to disturb beyond the limitations of any sensible band. So apart from all this, why are Swervedriver important? Well, while nearly all the bands on Creation label whom seem to matter these days (go on, count 'em - you know who they are) are curiously obsessed with the back catalogues of the Valentines and loop, Swervedriver simply aren't. Also, Swervedriver do not suffer from the pitiful illusion that popular music started sometime in 1987 with Psychocandy; nor are Swervedriver pre-pubescent home counties youths blessed with a near Raphaelite beauty and armed with three guitars, two chords and the misguided belief that they're going to matter this time next week - oh no! They are, according to Adi, "more interested in Motorhead than the Jesus and Mary Chain." And this is precisely why Swervedriver are important: they are outsiders in a world which seems to evolve and revolve around two of 1988's most badly recorded eps. They redress the balance, shall we say? "People in bands don't really think of themselves as post-Valentines or post-Cocteau twins bands," argues Adam. "They just plug in and play." "I think we've got a lot more potential then a lot of these bands," admits Adi. "In a way, they're painting themselves into a corner by just using .one field of reference. We don't seem to have a lot in common with them though," okay, we like the Valentines a lot, but we've also got rock influences like Neil Young and the Stooges which - apart from Teenage Fanciub - I don't think a lot of these cds have. In some respects, their lack of different influences makes them rather two dimensional. That said, Chapterhouse did start going on about Leonard Cohen and the Pebbles albums." Hoo-fuckin'-ray for Chapterhouse.

The motto which adornes many Swervedriver t-shirts reads 'Kill The Superhero'. It's just one of the many aspects of Swervedriver which points to some interest in all things American, which is part of the general attitude successfully stopping them being absorbed into the current scene. (It also rather neady ties in with what I was saying in my opening paragraph - remember that?) Elsewhere in their geography they can ciaim an ep called Son Of Mustang Ford and a healthy interest in love and Rockets comics. "That's really where the 'Kill The Superheroes' came from," begins Adam. "There were these themes running through issues where they'd have superheroes appearing in everyday situations looking ridiculous. But it's not really about superheroes particularly, it's also about rock stars, superpowers, whatever. It's a general idea of the underdog rising up. As to other things - like having American cars and huge landscapes on the sleeves...!'m not really sure. I think it's just an escapist image. I'm not particularly drawn to Americana, though. The Mustang Ford thing was simply that Marc Bolan got into name-checking American cars in songs and...well, the song needed a title so we thought we'd do it too."

Originally Appeared in Lime Lizard, September, 1991 Copyright © Lime Lizard.