Video Savant: Swervedriver's “Duel”

Swervedriver were a late addition to the Coachella lineup (they play the Mojave Tent 5:05 p.m. April 27) and consequently we didn't get a chance to cover them in our extensive preview in this week's issue. So consider this Video Savant an attempt to make amends for that.

Swervedriver were classified as shoegazers, partially because they recorded for Creation Records, home to My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Ride and other fine, introverted guitar bands that favored the gauzy wall of distortion approach prevalent in the late '80s/early '90s underground. But these Brits invested their epic, emotionally powerful rock songs with a brawny metallic sheen that veered more toward Hüsker Dü's artful machismo than shoegaze's more typical receding billows of mauve guitar tones.

Swervedriver's biggest U.S. hit was “Rave Down,” but all the YouTube vids available boast terrible audio quality (in fact, nearly all of the Swervedriver videos on YT sound like shite; it's a travesty, mate). Plus, I hate to be overly obvious with my selections. So we're going with this live version of “Duel,” which may be an even better song. It captures Swervedriver's trademark shifting between pensive and explosive passages, while featuring one of their most beautifully wistful melodies and Adam Franklin's deadpan vocals, sounding invitingly forlorn amid the guitar maelstrom.

It'll be very interesting to see if Swervedriver—like fellow recently reunited, outward-bound U.K. rockers the Verve—can summon what made them special some 15 years ago in Indio's blazing heat five days hence.

“Duel” (Live)

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