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From Madonna to Mogwai, Swervedriver's Resurgent Sonics Achieve Escape Velocity

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From My Bloody Valentine's recently announced reissues and rarities to the April release of Spiritualized's new sonic spacewalk Sweet Heart Sweet Light, synesthetic rock is returning from orbit. But its best-kept secret still remains Swervedriver, whose muscular guitar atmospherics are also thankfully back in action, starting Monday night on Fallon.

After that, Swervedriver embarks on a U.S. tour, starting Wednesday in Philly and winding down April 7 in Los Angeles. It's a slim but rewarding launch window for both noobs and old-schoolers crate-digging for last century's stunners sadly underestimated by those in search of less challenging artistry. That doesn't include Madonna, who according to Swervedriver's Adam Franklin, had discerning tastes in so-called shoegaze.

"Many years ago, a sound engineer friend of ours told us that sometime in the mid '90s, he found himself at a dinner table with Madonna," Franklin (below, bearded) told me. "He swore that after she asked him which bands he had worked with, and he mentioned Swervedriver, she said, 'Ah yes, best guitars in the business!' I really should ask him again about that. Perhaps he was on drugs at the time, or perhaps we were when he told us."

With a sonic heat signature that converged somewhere between the raw power of The Stooges and the cerebral trips of Sonic Youth, Swerdriver's four full-lengths and underestimated rarities have grown in relevance with the flight of time's arrow. When its pyrotechnical debut head-trip Raise first arrived in 1991, it fought desperately for breathing room alongside Metallica's self-titled crossover, Nirvana's angst-ridden Nevermind, as well as My Bloody Valentine's masterwork Loveless. But as the curtain closed on its 20th anniversary last year, it had climbed to the upper hindsight of pop-cult tastemakers old and new.

"Every new band starts out with a blank page and no history," Franklin explained. "There's that wonderful initial period, before anyone really has a handle on what a band is about, where two people can see it play and come away with completely different ideas about it."

It's important to note that Swervedriver's early adopters and grateful latecomers also went on to form bands as different as Mogwai, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Coldplay and The Darkness. Somewhere in that strain of influence and feedback is Swervedriver's future. After surviving a tumultuous '90s and a reconstructed '00s, Franklin's resurgent band is still in parts unknown, with a couple new songs ready for an epoch with more diversely attuned ears.

One is called "Deep Wound," which "obviously has The Feel," said Franklin. "Good Times Are So Hard to Follow" is another, which Franklin wrote recently for the film California Solo, starring Trainspotting's Robert Carlyle, who sings it while playing an ex-Britpop superstar in Cali exile. More could arrive, depending on how Franklin's synthetic cycle -- which also includes his other project Bolts of Melody, and its forthcoming full-length I Used To Live For Music -- spins into the ellipsis.

"I Used To Live For Music is half-recorded and sounding superb, so it's good to have it out-of-the-way a bit so we can all concentrate on Swervedriver ideas," Franklin told me. "I guess we'll just see what happens."