It became apparent early in this Oxford, England foursome’s history that they were too knife-edged heavy to be truly grouped with the then-reigning dream-pop sound. With vague hints of the Stooges (the group’s first name was Shake Appeal, in honor of the Raw Power song), the punkish end of metal and bits of ’60s rock, this intense band straddles several fences, but never fails to kick beneath the contrast of guitarist Adam Franklin’s tough-sounding but laconic vocals.
Raise is spotty — not too surprising, since a good portion of it was culled from the preceding EPs rather than sessions for a proper album. Nevertheless, the pounding “Son of Mustang Ford” establishes the group as a punishing and formidable force. Franklin’s vocals sound pond deep on the whip-lashing opener “Sci-Flyer,” “Sandblasted” and the vaguely psychedelic “Rave Down.”
From the opening moments of “For Seeking Heat,” it’s obvious Mezcal Head, produced by Alan Moulder and the band, is twice as explosive. The two guitarists (Franklin and Jimmy Hartridge) keep up a gargantuan, monstrous feel throughout the album, enlivening the all-powerful “Blowin’ Cool” and “Duel.” The band is tighter and more flexible than before, but also bigger-sounding, thanks to newcomer Steve George’s blasting fuzz bass, which has an edge hard enough to recall the Move. An improved sense of melody adds to an impressive effort, flawed only by the overly generous length of too many songs.
Ejector Seat Reservation has no such problem; instead, the album finds this harsh, heavy band working in a more tempered, classic-pop format. Several cuts, including “The Birds,” recall the late-’60s Who (whose songs Swervedriver has covered). “Bring Me the Head of the Fortune Teller” bubbles over in gnashing electricity; Franklin’s bitterness over thwarted goals spills over the crushing guitars. Likewise, the title track and “How Does It Feel to Look Like Candy” lay on the fuzz and distortion in the choruses-the latter even uses angry brass. And “Last Day on Earth” is a stunning pop masterwork. The ascending, soaring verse hook is so intense that Franklin must resort to a throaty falsetto to complete it. Without a second of filler or wasted space, Ejector Seat Reservation is one of the most quietly ambitious records of this decade.