To music fans of a certain vintage—those whose tastes were formed back when shoegazer was still a putdown—Adam Franklin has immediate name recognition. Throughout the ’90s, the singer and guitarist led Swervedriver, an English rock act whose pummelling rhythms and blistering six-string workouts provided Oxford’s answer to Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth.
These days, Franklin has a solo career going, with two albums out under his own name. For his current tour, however, he has adopted the band name Bolts of Melody, which, somewhat confusingly, is also the title of his 2007 solo debut and a song on his latest release, Spent Bullets. Reached in Philadelphia before a sound check at the Khyber, Franklin says he chose the Bolts of Melody moniker to differentiate between his one-man shows and his full-band gigs. But that’s not the only reason.
“Another thing was that, you know, you’re in a truck stop somewhere getting your morning coffee, and the waitress comes over and says, ”˜You guys must be in a band,’ and then we’re like, ”˜Yeah, yeah,’ ” he explains. “ ”˜What’s the name of the band?’ And it just seems weird to be, like, ”˜It’s his name. The name of the band is Adam Franklin.’ So it’s kind of just a way of having a band name to give to waitresses at truck stops.”
Joining Franklin for his morning coffee this time around are guitarist Ley Taylor, bassist Josh Stoddard, and drummer Mikey Jones. Make no mistake, though—this is Franklin’s baby through and through, and so is Spent Bullets. The disc puts the singer’s distinctive baritone and his multi-textured guitar work front and centre on songs such as the lysergically mellow “Big Sur”. Elsewhere, “Surge” is a dream-pop whirl of whammy-bar bends set to a driving beat, and, of course, “Bolts of Melody” is an elegant ballad that lives up to the promise in its title.
All of which should please fans of Franklin’s various projects, which are numerous. First of all, there’s Magnetic Morning, a supergroup of sorts featuring Interpol’s Sam Fogarino and the Album Leaf’s Jimmy LaValle. Also, Franklin is talking of reviving Toshack Highway, the more experimental outfit he fronted after Swervedriver split. Speaking of Swervedriver, that’s also a going concern again, its members having convened in 2008 for a reunion tour. The reformed act saw some action in ’09 as well.
“We just did some stuff in the U.K.,” Franklin says. “We played a couple of shows in London and one in Oxford, and we also played All Tomorrow’s Parties with My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth. And Sonic Boom from Spacemen 3 played; it was quite a cool bill to be on. Everybody was quite fired up after these recent shows, and there’s talk about doing other stuff. I guess we’ll see how it pans out.”
That’s not quite a promise of a new Swervedriver album, but it does give those aforementioned music fans of a certain vintage something to dream about.
Adam Franklin & Bolts of Melody play the Media Club on Friday (January 22).