Swervedriver was one of those bands that only seemed to exist in the limited world of college radio. They were a constant fixture in the underground and were never seen or heard too far beyond that. To make matters worse the band suffered through multiple record label changes and bad distribution deals that limited their exposure.
That exposure should have been rather broad considering all the EPs and singles the band released, but when record labels drop you after one album, it gets difficult gaining any traction. Grunge’s stronghold on alternative rock had been broken up by the middle of the decade, opening the door to other styles to enter the mainstream.
In its wake emerged multiple scenes vying for a splintered rock audience. Swervedriver borrowed elements from two of those popular scenes, neo-psychedelia and shoegaze. Like other similar sounding British bands like The Verve and Bush, Swervedriver should have been one of the genre’s rising stars.
They released a string of excellent albums starting with Raise in 1991, their first full-length debut. For all the critical acclaim they accumulated, they were still relatively unknown in the States, except on many college campuses. That was supposed to change with the release of Ejector Seat Reservation, the band’s third album. Despite being English, Swervwedriver had a sound that was very reminiscent of American bands like Dinosaur Jr. Even some of the band’s past lyrical content seemed American in scope.
Songs about the open road and cars are not typical of what small island dwellers sang about, but the universal appeal of the subject matter went beyond national borders but does not explain the band’s lack of exposure in America. The band’s lineup changed almost as often as their sound, but on Ejector Seat Reservation, lead vocalist Adam Franklin did less hard rock screaming.
A new pop oriented sound included glam, psychedelia even a bit of shoegazing, all with the improved voice of Franklin. Ejector Seat Reservation was the band’s most cohesive and accessible album. Arguably the band’s best album, it contained a hand full of great possible singles like ‘Last Day on Earth’ and the ‘Other Jesus’.
It’s possible to still hear Swervedriver on college radio on any given day, but the rise of internet radio means that more people may potentially discover this great and underexposed band. They called it quits in 1998.
In what must have looked like a concession to past record label wrongs, Sony BMG would re-release Ejector Seat Reservation as a remastered and expanded U.K. only release in 2008. With four bonus tracks, Sony likely was preaching to the choir as the re-release was a missed opportunity to capitalize on the band reforming that year with American distribution.
However the internet being what it is, I’m certain resourceful fans outside of the U.K. were able to circumnavigate any limitations to get their own copy. Since 2008, Swervedriver has reformed and toured on multiple occasions. The band recorded a new single in 2013 and toured extensively. Hopefully a new album and a legitimate record distribution deal will mean that they will finally get the exposure they deserve.