When I lived in Los Angeles, I would visit my parents in New Jersey from time to time, and if I wanted to visit friends in the area, I’d have to borrow my dad’s un-iPod friendly truck. It became the perfect opportunity for a sonic expoloration of my younger years. On one such trip I rediscovered Swervedriver’s 1991 debut, Raise, and quickly was reminded why I shouldn’t ever have forgotten it.
Thankfully, Second Motion didn’t, and they’ve reissued and remastered Raise, with a couple of bonus tracks to boot. Swervedriver is a polished-up Dinosaur Jr, complete with riffs and textures but more melodically aggressive and punchy. If nothing else, Raise is a perfect driving record. The album’s lyrics are rife with references to cars and driving, especially the opening trifecta of “Sci Flyer,” “Pile-up” and, most blatantly, “Son of Mustang Ford.” These songs are aggressive and incessant, yet the bass lines are incredibly melodic, acting as more than just anchors for the electrifying guitars. Think Andy Rourke of the Smiths and you’re on the right track.
“Deep Seat” takes the aggression down a notch or two, a fuzzy, swirling bass line creeping in through the windows as the song builds into a gorgeous blanket. “Rave Down” takes the ride back up to near full speed, and “like a car crash in a dream” comes careening down recklessly around dangerous curves. “Sunset” and “Feel So Real” are like riding in a convertible with the top down, hair swirling, and the sun on shoulders.
“Hands” and “Andalucía” were originally bonus tracks on the Japanese edition of Raise, and “Kill the Superheroes” and “Over” were on the Juggernaut Rides Again collection, but adding them to this package makes perfect sonic sense. “Andalucía” is “Deep Seat”’s spacier yet sludgier, dirtier, louche cousin. “Hands” sits comfortably in the back seat between “Mustang Ford” and “Sci Flyer,” and “Over” sits on one of their laps without a seat belt. The band’s sophomore effort, Mezcal Head, was reissued on the same day, which means we won’t have to wait nearly two years to hitchhike with Swervedriver again.