It’s not like Adam Franklin sat idle from 1999 to mid-2008, when his band Swervedriver was on an extended hiatus (the boys got back together to play some gigs and a little festival called Coachella). He had his Toshack Highway folky/electronic/what-the-hell hybrid in the interim, and lately he’s been hanging out with Interpol’s Sam Fogarino recording as Magnetic Morning. Oh, and he’s got his Bolts of Melody backing band fleshing out his numbers under his very own given name. And it is this incarnation that brings us Spent Bullets, his second “solo” full-length record.
Franklin has always had a near supernatural grace with melody, and this record is no exception. Sure, it has Swervedriver fuzzed-out crushing wall of sound rock ‘n’ roll moments, opening with the quick slap of “Surge” and cropping up again in the noisy stack at the end of “Autumn Leaf.” But if you are looking for SWD, just pick up the re-releases of Mezcal Head and Raise. The lure of Spent Bullets is that Franklin manages to create walls of lush texture, not noise, and spins melodies that wrap like satin ribbons around your body. The languid and languorous guitars and rhythms are liquid and seductive.
The whole record is a bittersweet meandering, with softness and lucidity permeating throughout. Where Swervedriver was a ramped-up cocaine-frenzied juggernaut, Franklin and his Bolts of Melody are the shimmering comedown, the morning after hungover in a warm bed in your lover’s arms. The album’s closing track, “Two Dollar Dress,” might just be the most realized and lovely song he’s written. If only the track stretched out just a bit longer and let the swirling guitar keep wandering off into the ether. Franklin may be older and may even be slowing down, but he’s aged with a grace and elegance, and brought to his music a startling awareness of beauty.