OG shoegazers Swervedriver just returned with the very-decent I Wasn’t Born To Lose You.
But in another way, Swervedriver picked up on a thread that runs through a lot of shoegzaze and shoegaze-adjacent music – a fascination with the iconography of the American west, of lonely desert roads and nameless drifters and heat and dust.
When I drove cross-country for a month, back in the dark days before iPods, I made sure to take the Swervies’ excellent Mezcal Head CD with me in the big binder, because I had always suspected that “Duel” was meant to be listened to at top volume while hammering towards the horizon at illegal and unreasonable speeds across a flat sun-blasted empty desert highway in the middle of nowhere.
(Turns out, I was 100% correct in this suspicion. It was glorious.)
I’m not sure where this aesthetic and thematic association started – maybe all the way back with scene forefathers the Velvet Underground’s’ “Ride Into The Sun”, or “White Light/White Heat” (or “Lonesome Cowboy Bill”)? The JAMC’s biker-jacket look? Perhaps an association with peyote or vision quests; or a more general linkage of psychedelia and Western themes, as seen in El Topo or Dope Rider?
Maybe slow-moving dust clouds (and fast-moving storm clouds); wide-open skies; the shimmering waves of rising heat; and the way that small shifts in the sometimes-merciless/sometimes-soft desert sunlight can quickly transform a barren, desolate landscape of sand and rock into something disorienting and alien (even in the absence of any chemical enhancement) simply provide handy visual metaphors for what the players are trying to accomplish with their expansive sounds.
In any case, it’s been a current that’s long been there, from Mazzy Star’s languorous watch-the-dustmotes-swirl (along with the somewhat-like-minded, uh…Cowboy Junkies), to Neil Halstead & Rachel Goswell naming their post-Slowdive band Mojave 3.
And like a desert or a strange trip, visions of beauty and death are never far apart.
Since forming the band, they’ve released two albums and opened for all kinds of like-minded bands like the Brian Jonestown Massacre, Black Rebel Motorcyle Club, Primal Scream, Spiritualized, Spectrum, Raveonettes, Tamaryn, and the Black Angels.
The drop-dead gorgeous singer/guitarist Aimee Nash also married
mummified Jim Morrison Ian Astbury of The Cult, for some reason.
(No, I’m not completely-irrationally jealous over a ridiculous celebrity crush; why do you ask? Please don’t find and kill me, Mr. Astbury!)