THE MAN WHO FELL TO EARTH Adam Franklin

From Space Travel Rock
and Roll to the Toshack Highway:
the Swervedriver frontman is re-entering Earth’s orbit.

 

BY ERIC TISCHLER

 

For fans of Swervedriver’s Adam Franklin, the previous eighteen
months have been like Christmas. His 2007 solo debut, Bolts of Melody was followed by reissues of Swervedriver’s Raise and Mezcal Head (Second Motion), a reunion tour, and another side
project, Magnetic Morning, with Interpol drummer Sam Fogarino. As he cruises
through the second year of what feels a lot like a comeback, Franklin will spring
a more-assured follow-up to Bolts titled Spent Bullets-and he says he’s
got a lot more rock to share before the year is out.

 

***

 

Righting the Wrongs
of History

 

The Swervedriver reunion could seem like a brilliant career
move, but fans of the band know that its name is a very apt description of its
career trajectory.           A brilliant
blend of Hendrix and the MC5 via Sonic Youth, los Swervies were criminally overlooked
in the alt-rock goldrush:  They were less
obvious (read: ham-fisted) than tourmates Soundgarden and Smashing Pumpkins and
overshadowed by labelmates and friends My Bloody Valentine. Worse, the band’s
history of label fuckups meant that what was arguably its best record, psychedelic
guitar pop masterpiece Ejector Seat
Reservation
, was never released in the U.S.
(and deleted from UK
label Creation’s catalog after one week). Their last record, 1997’s 99th Dream, landed at Zero
Hour-after falling through the cracks at Geffen-just before that label went
belly-up. For those who followed the band’s fortunes, it seemed like the
group’s fuel had been exhausted, and the only question that remained was
whether history would be kind to their heroes.

 

Cut to last year’s 10-year reunion tour that brought out the
faithful and neophytes in droves, and prompted quotes from Radiohead: Even the
ever-modest Franklin
calls it an unqualified success. “We were all blown away by how well it came
together,” he says. “The songs sounded great and [it was great] getting out on
the road and playing and having these people show how much they love the band.”

 

 

“Supergroup” Is Not a
Pejorative

 

On the heels of the reunion tour, Franklin released A.M., the first record by Magnetic Morning. A songwriting
collaboration with Fogarino, the record is majestic yet relaxed, although
standout track “Motorway” is a blistering guitar workout that’s in keeping with
the Swervedriver legacy. “It’s certainly been a creative and artistic success,”
says Franklin,
“and the whole band thing works out fantastically and the crowd response has
been great.” But Magnetic Morning toured the album in October; the CD didn’t come
out until this past January. This might suggest that Franklin inherited Swervedriver’s label
problems but, fortunately, the story doesn’t end there. “There’s a plan to
properly issue [A.M.]. We’d love to
do some more touring later this year and take it out to Europe
and tour it out there; I think this band will blow a few people away.”

 

 

Reloaded

 

Before Magnetic Morning gets a second chance to make a first
impression, Franklin
is going to give Spent Bullets his
best shot. Where Swervedriver tended to sound like a peyote trip aboard a
spaceship that’s burning up on re-entry, Franklin’s post-Swervedriver work,
from Toshack Highway onward, has sounded more like a nice, hash-fueled night at
home. That’s not a knock. The guy has a record collection that extends well
beyond Swervedriver’s Stooges-meet-Dinosaur Jr. template, and, as on ’07’s Bolts
he gets to get his record collector geek on, from the Hendrix-meets-Chi-Lites
brilliance of “Big Sur” to the psychedelic doo wop of “Bolts of Melody” to the
frontier waltz  “End Credits,” Franklin gets to stretch his wings and
really fly.  Of course, Franklin
doesn’t skimp on the rawk, as on opener “Surge” and the slow burning future
classic, “It Hurts to See You Go.” 

 

 

But on that album, Franklin
sounded like one of the boys in the band-on Bullets,
he’s front-and-center in a way he hasn’t been before. He says recording both
albums “was an unbridled joy,” but on Bullets you can actually hear that joy. The
dude has one of the coolest voices in rock, yet it always played second fiddle
to the guitar heroics in Swervedriver. It’s a thrill to hear it employed on
elaborate backing arrangements throughout; Franklin even scats(!) to wondrous
effect on “Big Sur.” He pulls out every trick in his seemingly bottomless
guitar arsenal: spaghetti western arpeggios, abstract soundscapes, maxed-out delay
pedals and wah pedals bubbling over with lava, and they’re all employed in
service of some great songs.

 

 

Back To the Future

 

In addition to the anticipated solo and Magnetic Morning
tours, Swervedriver has had some more offers and Franklin confides with an audible wink,
“There are songs that I put to one side that could be Swervedriver songs if the
occasion arose.”  So 2009 sounds good, right?  But that’s not
all!  How about a team up with Ride frontman Mark Gardener? “We’re
thinking of doing some sort of recording, just for shits and giggles.” 

 

 

Apparently it’s a slippery slope from shoegazing retiree to
hardest working man in show business.  Welcome back to Earth, Mr. Franklin. 

 

 

[Photo Credit: Johnny Moto]

 

 

[Go HERE to read about the two recent Swervedriver
reissues.]

 

Leave a Reply