Hell on Wheels
WHEN they told me what it was called, I thought "Yeah,
Ray's", and I pictured some rusty old gas station in the Badlands, dry wind tangling tumbleweed
around mangled, dead engines. Then I thought "Yeah, rays", and I imagined the rising sun searing
amphetamine eyeballs gazing along an endless ribbon of black asphalt. Then they said "No, RAISE",
and I thought yeah, that's mighty fine too because it's no accident that these guitars hit and
"Raise" is about rising above reality, a head-on collision between fact and fantasy, between
what is and what young men dream. Fuelled by epic disillusionment- "Your town ain't lightin' up no
more" - it accelerates away from urban claustrophobia and heads for the imagined freedom of. . .
somewhere, anywhere else. It's not about being there, it's not about arriving, it ignites on that
moment of deciding to leave and revs on the throbbing tension between the taste of escape and the
tug of the familiar. "Raise" is the sound of the wheels spinning the second before you release the
brake and consign your pastto an exhilarating rush of images Aashing back into history.
Like the other truly great albums made this year, "Raise" is an attempt to reconcile the TV promises we
were reared on - holidays in the sun, handsome fashion spreads, smiling afAuence, the mythical
leisure principle-with the bitter truth of recession and human frailty. The Primals created their
own citadel in the heavens with "Screamadelica" and blissfully left the earth behind. But it's a
bubble destined to burst, according to Guns N' Roses, who arrived at the palace of ultimate
pleasure befare them and spent the "Use Your Illusion" albums graphically explaining how, no
matter how many guards you can afford to employ, you can't bolt the doors against pain. "Raise"
is a reminder that others are about to embark on that journey and make all these awesome
discoveries for themselves.
Incurably romantic, "Raise" gets its rocks off raging againstwhere
Swervedriver actually are as much it does panting about where they're planning to go. "There's
kids on the corner wanna beatbox my brains to bits" ("Rave Down"). "It seems so real I can
just close my eyes and it's here" ("Feel So Real"). It's a gloriously precarious balance, a symbolic
fuck -you to the blank generation. Swervedriver are, literally, sensational. Whether it's
frustration or anticipation, getting bombed (the slow motion skid of "Deep Seat", the thunderous
rush of "Sandblasted") or getting ready ("Lead Me Where You Dare"), Swervedriver refuse to be
numb. The guitars scald like burning oil butthevocals are always downbeat and voyeuristic, fanning
the Aames of "Pile Up" and the twisted chassis of "Mustang" with deeper symbolism. Like musical
method actors, Swerved river are God's grease monkeys. They look beyond.
"Raise" is a great road
movie for the ears and a pastcard sent back from the edge to those who cast an eye over Swerved
river' s origins, lazily lumped them to with The Scene. . . and then ianored them. Wish YOU were
here? No way sucker! Eat their fuckin' dust! STEVE SUTHERLAND
Originally Appeared in Melody Maker, September, 1991
Copyright © Melody Maker.