Adam Franklin

Bolts of Melody

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On Bolts of Melody, his first album under his own name, former Swervedriver head man Adam Franklin leaves behind the electronic leanings of post-Swerve project Toshack Highway and revisits his former band's sprawling, guitar-heavy sound. Anyone who misses the hooky guitar overload that was Swervedriver at their best will jump for joy upon hearing the opening track, "Seize the Day." And though the rest of the album is a bit more subdued (with the occasional blast of energy like the road trip-ready rocker "Shining Somewhere" and the rollicking "Birdsong," which features a fuzzed-out solo even Neil Young would think twice about keeping), it still delivers a small slice of heaven for fans of guitars and melancholy indie rock balladry. As you may have guessed by now, guitars are to the forefront on Bolts of Melody, and Franklin uses every color in his six-string paintbox -- backward solos, wah-wahed riffs, layers of reverb, waves of distortion, gentle acoustic strumming, and epic soloing, to name a few. As in Swervedriver, the guitar heroics never overshadow the songs, as Franklin has written some of his most memorable songs, ranging from emotionally powerful ("Birdsong [Moonshiner Version]," "Song of Solomon") to silly but fun ("Walking in Heaven's Foothills") to heartbreakingly pretty ("Morning Rain") to epic ("Ramonesland"). In fact, much of the album stands with Franklin's best work with Swervedriver. It may be lacking their huge sound and stadium-ready songs, but it has their spirit and sound, and seems like a grown-up version of the band. So, you could take the cynical approach and figure that -- in this era of reunion cash-ins and '90s nostalgia -- Bolts of Melody is nothing more than an easy, safe, and possibly mercenary step back for Franklin, but that would be short-sided and untrue. It feels more like he's realized his strengths as a songwriter, guitarist, and rocker and has decided to capitalize on them rather than explore new avenues and styles. Whatever the case, the album is damn good -- and even if you have no idea who Swervedriver were, you'll be blown away by the guitar heroics, restrained emotion, and inspired songcraft on display.

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