Once the dust had settled from the brief, sonic explosion of the shoegaze movement, it seems that everyone involved unceremoniously went their separate ways. My Bloody Valentine hid under a rock somewhere, Ride was canonized by Anglophiles (the type who would feverishly collect the flexi discs that came inside Melody Maker), and the music of Oxford's Swervedriver—the band that transcended the genre like no other—became the stuff of legend. It's hard to pinpoint why that is, but while their peers were content with a stage full of guitar pedals and a live show that involved more than its fair share of sneaker staring, Swervedriver were an actual rock band. One with a charismatic frontman, raucous live show, and a penchant for American guitar heroics.
But just as the shoegaze movement gradually imploded, Swervedriver did the same, announcing their "indefinite hiatus" in 1999. Since that time former frontman Adam Franklin has been devoted to Toshack Highway—the loose electronic/atmospheric ensemble that has always felt was more like a project than a "real" band—and his recently released solo recording, Bolts of Melody. It's this recording that showcases Franklin's craft for writing tight little pop songs, and then submerging them in wave after wave of swirling guitars and distorted vocals. Basically, it's the natural progression of Swervedriver, picking up where they left off before disappearing into the band-swallowing Bermuda Triangle known as "indefinite hiatus."
Of course, to properly go it alone—or in Franklin's case, go it with a full backing band—there needs to be some sacrifices. His trademark-matted mounds of dreadlocks have long been shed for a more proper, if not adult, haircut that is more suited for the whole frontman-gone-solo thing. Plus there is the issue of what to call the band.
"It took me a bit of time to come around to the idea of actually having an album just under my name," says Franklin, a week before embarking on a rare series of West Coast tour dates. "For example, if someone comes to see the band and goes, 'Hey man, you guys are really cool. What's the name of the band?' It's like, 'Uh, it's named Adam Franklin.' It's just a weird thing."
While Bolts of Melody is peppered with a variety of sounds, from the more straightforward guitar-haze of opener "Seize the Day," to "Theme from LSD," which would make Timothy Leary proud, it's the final song, "Ramonesland" that highlights the record. Similar to the introspective downers of Spiritualized's Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space album, the song shuffles slowly about and radiates with a powerful dose of sadness, with lyrics like, "And even when you've got her, you don't feel like you're going to get her/That she's going to float off sideways/Disappear into the ether." The catch comes at the end of the song, where over a jangling guitar Franklin confesses, "You're living in Leonard Cohen Land, when you want to live in Ramones Land." It's a cute close to a strong album, but there's no need for the man to pine for a happier land, even if Joey and Dee Dee occupy it. If music this good comes from Cohen country, Franklin should unpack those boxes and make himself at home. He belongs there.