Future Ruins


Dangerbird, 2019


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


The reunited ’90s group’s sixth album finds the shoegaze pioneers treading a familiar sound but with more comfort and accessibility than many similar efforts. “Mary Winter,” in particular, is one of the better efforts in the genre that I’ve heard in a long while, melding noisy grunge with an immersive sound that is neither bleak nor too fuzzed-out to stick the landing…and it’s only the first song.

Much of Future Ruins follows that sonic template, and if it doesn’t break a lot of new ground, it consolidates the strengths Swervedriver has brought to this genre. Lyrically, the disc covers modern disconnection and how to find hope in a world that’s crumbling, but not really in a specific way, so the vocals tend to blend in to the overall sound (“The Lonely Crowd Fades In The Air,” the title track).

For this genre, such ambience is expected. Bands like Yes would often sing words that were meant to be part of the sonic tapestry instead of poems to be dissected for deep meaning, and so the same goes for this album. The best shoegaze music is immersive and expansive, as is the best progressive rock, and if Swervedriver falls into the former camp almost exclusively, the scope and sound is admirable. “Future Ruins” is a song you can close your eyes and get lost in, a song that helps you block out the world (especially on headphones) and go on a ride. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

For comparative touchstones – since these guys weren’t even well-known in their heyday – one could point to My Bloody Valentine, maybe early Smashing Pumpkins, perhaps Mogwai or Dinosaur Jr. I also would add mid-career Pink Floyd, not as a musical touchstone but in the sensibility of creating a sonic universe within a single song. But Swervedriver is far apart from all of those bands at the same time, and that’s what makes this album so good.

“Theeascending,” for example, starts as a slow gray rocker but intercuts its choruses with noisy fuzz guitars and unexpected melodic changes, ending on a full minute-long psychedelic jam session where the buzzsaw guitars roar and the keyboards shimmy and then darkness, bam. “Golden Remedy” follows a similar pattern to similar results; both are good, and you can pick either one and be satisfied.

The drawback to this sort of music is its lack of diversity. Swervedriver may be versatile and adept at refining a sound they helped create, and the strengths are obvious, but over the course of an album the songs begin to blur together. After the first four songs, “Drone Lover” is just more of the same, and while the punchy “Spiked Flower” livens the mood a bit, neither it nor the Bowie-ish drone of “Everybody’s Going Somewhere & No-One’s Going Anywhere” really excite, though I suppose the latter would have fit well on Blackstar. But boy, this album sure could use a “Last Train To Satansville” or two.

“Good Times Are So Hard to Follow” tries for a ‘60s vibe meets, kind of like a Byrds-meets-Pet Sounds-meets the Pumpkins’ “Drown,” and it’s not bad just for that effort. “Radio-Silent” goes for that ol’ epic closer vibe, but seven minutes of the same five-second guitar figure gets a bit monotonous no matter how many layers are piled on (Note: For an example of how these guys can do an epic album closer right, check out “Never Lose That Feeling” from 1993’s Mezcal Head).

The album doesn’t end by inspiring hope, but it doesn’t sink into despair either, dissolving into police sirens and a feeling of “What now?” Perhaps that’s the point, that we don’t really know how to make the world a better place, and it’s better to get lost for a while instead. That lack of an overall concept hurts the album a bit, but for an album to get lost in, this is easily the best one of 2019 so far and a very good late-career effort from a pioneering band.

Rating: B+

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© 2019 Benjamin Ray and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Dangerbird, and is used for informational purposes only.