Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

“Deep Twang”: Swervedriver’s Surfgaze

1991’s “Deep Twang” – the B-side of a bonus 7″ from UK’s fabled Creation label – would seem to anticipate the psychedelic surf instrumental sounds that The Mermen would later bring, to great relief, to the DC area on their one and only visit in 1995:

Deep Twang” 

Swervedriver (1991)

Big Takeover‘s Jack Rabid has championed Swervedriver from the band’s earliest days, and yet the group remains “one of the most underrated acts of the ’90s,” acknowledges The Washington Post.  Furthermore, says the Post, “this UK band stood out as they rocked too hard to be shoegaze yet had too many dreamy textures for the mainstream.”   As with Roy Lanham, Swervedriver found themselves too jazz-leaning for hard country fans, and too funky for the cufflink crowd, since one person’s ‘shoegaze’ is another person’s modern psychedelic pop.  Undeterred, the band would forge its own path.

Swervedriver 45


Surf Twang” / “Deep Twang” was a bonus 45 included with the band’s first LP, Raise.  Discogs helpfully informs us that these two instrumentals are 4-track demos, with “Surf Twang” being an early version of “Last Train to Satansville” (from Mezcal Head, their second album), while “Deep Twang” is a version of “Deep Seat” from Raise.

The Gavin Report

Oct. 11, 1991


Seana Baruth would heap unqualified praise on the band in her review of Swervedriver’s debut A&M album for the Oct. 4, 1991 issue of The Gavin Report:

Much to the surprise of the Alternative higher-ups (read: Linda), I’m diggin’ on a British band.  A bit out of character, I know, but Swervedriver, rather than board the groovy train that’s recently steamed so many UK bands into Hitsville, have been inspired by their American indie-rock forefathers.  With Swervedriver, guitar is god, and they weave a molasses-thick atmosphere of wah-wah snarl and distortion that, while not entirely US-referential (Ride, My Bloody Valentine), is instead a successful attempt to “break down the barriers like Sonic Youth,” and “pedal-hop like Dinosaur Jr.”  This Oxford-based four-piece has garnered a bit of American airplay with their two previous import EPs, but Raise is their first domestic release for A&M.  Check out “Pile Up,” “Rave Down,” “Feel So Real,” and my fave “Deep Seat.”


The Gavin Report

Nov. 8, 1991


Billboard‘s review in their Nov. 2, 1991 issue is similarly upbeat —

UK combo in the Creation Records stable features a sound not unlike Blur and English label mate Ride, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t an exciting record.  Scorching, wide-angle guitar playing and a highly melodic writing style keep things happening for modern rockers, who are advised to lift “Sci-Flyer,” “Son of Mustang Ford,” and “Rave Down” for instant heat.


Billboard ad

Sep. 27, 1991


Raise would hit the #44 position on The Gavin Report‘s Top 50 Alternate chart in their Oct. 11, 1991 issue, while the Dec. 13, 1991 issue would find Raise holding down the #69 spot on the Alternative Top 100 album chart.

The Gavin Report

Jan. 17, 1992


Swervedriver – performing this Wed., March 25th at DC’s Rock & Roll Hotel – is touring behind their first album in 15 years, I Wasn’t Born to Lose You (check out “Lone Star“).  NPR’s First Listen weighs in on the new one — also, check out this recent interview with Adam Franklin.


Rolling Stone – “New Faces

Mar. 5, 1992 issue


Chaos, Distortion and Feedback

By Chris Mundy

For the members of Swervedriver, growing up in the staid confines of Oxford, England allowed plenty of time to romanticize the American roads. Raise, the band’s dizzying debut debut of serrated guitars and melodic chaos, bristles with tales from the road, flashes that careen through dark storms of distortion and feedback.

“We liked the idea of carrying on the rock & roll tradition – like the Chuck Berry songs – but pushing it a bit,” says bassist Adi Vynes. “But nowit’s come to the point that some songs will mention driving purely for the hell of it.”

The image fits. The band, which also includes singer-guitarist Adam Franklin, guitarist Jimmy Hartridge, and drummer Graham Bonnar, doesn’t usher forth songs so much as it does addictive rushes of momentum, decline and more momentum, while Franklin’s voice stays buried under the fuzz like the hum of a faraway motor winding through traffic. Loneliness never sounded so loud. “We’re into the spirit and flow of the song more than getting it technically perfect,” says Franklin, who, along with his band mates, produced Raise. The imagery is quite vivid.”

Swervedriver first began hypnotizing listeners with two EPs, Son of Mustang Ford and Rave Down, which allied this band with a select few – like My Bloody Valentine and Ride – who had broken away from the pack of atmospheric Brit bands. “We had to get a band ourselves, because you couldn’t hear guitar bands in England,” says Franklin. “We just constantly gigged when we got signed. They you start having manic stage divers, and you realize things might be taking off.”

The only problem now is proving itself in America without the aid of the British-press accolade machine, a test the band so far has passed. “The reaction has been great,” says Vynes. “We thought people were just going to think we were a bunch of over-hyped English idiots.”


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