swervedriver: 99th dream (1997)

swervedriverThe potential problem with hard-edged music like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots and their ilk, as far as I’m concerned, is their lack of attention in creating a satisfying melody, as if all they want is to sound overwrought, loud, angry, serious, and whatever else, with hardly a punch in the form of a supremely catchy tune. I’ll admit to sort-of liking a Foo Fighters song not too long ago, but where it all hits dead on is with Swervedriver and this album. Absent from my memory since their debut hit “Rave Down,” Swervedriver have put together a remarkable effort which is both hard-edged and richly melodic. Guitars rage while the vocalist sings with a marvelously expressive voice, and a maelstrom of sonic effects wraps everything in a gauze of steamy haze. Little frills, the sonic mayhem in “She Weaves A Tender Trap”, the curlicue riffs in the chorus of “Up From The Sea” and unearthly drones in the background of “Electric 77” are exactly the sort of thing that works toward setting a band apart from the generic pack. In this respect one could file it along with The Boo Radleys’ Giant Steps, another precisely crafted edifice of sound. “Stellar Caprice” is one of the most enchanting instrumentals I have ever heard, like a full rock version of the High Llamas, with amazing melodic twists and glorious washes. The aforementioned “Up From The Sea” and the title track pack an up-front wallop on the ears, while remaining infectiously tuneful. Fireworks abound in the jamming outro of “Electric 77,” and “You’ve Sealed My Fate” vocally reminding me of Elvis Costello (see also “In My Time”) works itself into a frenzy of electricity. “Behind the Scenes of the Sounds & the Times” harkens back slightly to Genesis and Yes with its multi-faceted approach. Swervedriver gets in your face. They grab you, rough you up a little in a good natured way, and send you on a fast-paced and loud trip. It would be annoying if it weren’t for the sweet tunes at the heart of everything. Play this for all the hard-headed rockers in your town and you’ll have a bunch of converts on your hands. 4 – bn


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