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Swerve gas

Far from erratic, as their name might suggest, SWERVEDRIVER are well on their way to the chequered flag of fame. MARY ANN HOBBS hitches a ride.
It's a bleak late November day, virtually dark at two in the afternoon. One of those days when the fuddled half-light hours mess with people's instinctive sense of time. Swervedriver drift into Creation Records' East London office a full hour and ten minutes late for the interview. The four look like they have spent that lost 70 minutes lobbying lunch-bound commuters at Kings Cross underground with 'Hungry And Homeless Please Help' placards.
Grubby and unkempt the Swervedrivers may be, yet it would appear that the band have a style guru in the ranks. Several Creation employees are offering outrageous sums of money to bass player Adi for his favourite Betty Ford Clinic embossed T-shirt.
America is a good place to begin the Swervedriver story. Not that they're natives. Swervedriver are from that great boat racer's home, Oxford. a town that now offers some challenging alternative to dizzy baggy in the shape of Ride and Swervedriver. They term it 'The Thames Valley Sound'. Anyway, America. . .
Legend would have it that Swervedriver were signed to Creation after Alan McGee fell hard for their demo cruising US freeways earlier this year.
The band's first EP, released in July and titled 'Son Of Mustang Ford', embraces the same chrome-fendered autoromanticism that has coupled American rock'n'roll since the '50s - and then some. Any suggestion of the throbbing motor as a penile extension should not, however, be mistaken as a pointer towards heavy metal. Swervedriver may live out accelerator-related fantasies with their distortion pedals, ("we don't actually have cars, we just wish we did"), but they are not a metal band. 'Son Of Mustang Ford' is rooted by a Dinosaur Jr-style languid riff a celebration of lazyitis with effortlessly feral guitars. And it is further steeped bollock deep in sentiment and imagery inspired by gonzo journo/novelist Hunter S Thompson.
"'Son Of Mustang Ford' was based on the Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas idea." explains dread headed singer Adam. "Driving around, out of your box, over America's landscapes."
"It was American influences (both literary and musical) that made us get off our arses and do something," says guitarist Jimmy. "We were really into the guitar bands that came out of America two, three years ago. Bands like Dinosaur were our first real contemporary influence."
Therefore, 'Son Of Mustang Ford' may have been quite hopelessly romantic and openly derivative, but it was a fair start. Honest, not opportunist. Let's face it, Swervedriver are a good two years too late to chase the sonic set's bandwagon. If anything, the Swervers are trying to get in through the out door in baggy '90.
Their new EP is called 'Ravedown'. lt is not the turncoat party pooper that the title may suggest. Far from it: the lead track comes on as strong as the kind of pre-med you'd need before an amputation - a cyclone of wild, swollen riff machinery that sounds like it's been played with dislocated shoulder joints. Of the four demon tracks. 'She's Beside Herself' is the only one in which any other influence - an almost distinguished Costello-like vocal quality, oddly- is really discernible through Swervedriver's shredder-static. 'Ravedown' is, nonetheless, a stunning second for the band.
Along with contemporaries Teenage Fanclub, Swervedriver are also currently eclipsing the second generation of droll sub-Mascis US guitar bands (Buffalo Tom, Lemonheads etc) live. Celebrities that can be found down the front at their gigs include Guy Chadwick, Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago and ex-Cult bass player Jamie Stewart. Swervedriver are big in Gloucester. Their most important asset is, they claim, "a critical sense of volume". And the most upsetting thing they've ever read about themselves, "was that 'Son Of Mustang Ford' is a male bonding anthem." Belinda Carlisle's 'Circle In The Sand' is their favourite tune to sing-a-long with in the bedroom. Yet they've been quoted describing themselves as "Pickettywitch with chainsaws".
Thumb a joyride back to the future.

Picture: TIM JARVIS

Originally Appeared in NME, 1990 Copyright © NME.

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