Even though Adam Franklin seems to be getting closer to returning to the fuzzed-out shoegaze of his much revered former group, Swervedriver, on I Could Sleep For A Thousand Years he makes it quite clear on the opening track that he refuses to dwell on his past glory, and is fully invested in the noise he’s making now. It’s been quite a fruitful period as of late for Franklin, who has been busy making a few recent albums under his own name, as well as a batch of respectable records as Toshack Highway and a couple of Magnetic Morning releases with Interpol drummer Sam Fogarino. And while those projects were clearly muted, more subtle affairs, Franklin’s new work with Bolts Of Melody is drawing nearer to the rich moodiness of his celebrated former band, with textured sonic layers blended smoothly over Franklin’s velvety vocals.
Franklin’s boldly defiant first statement on the record is ‘Yesterday Has Gone Forever,’ a sure way for him to inform the people who might not have been listening to his other projects that he has moved forward and is on to something new now, and that those people expecting some incarnation of Swervedriver II should move on as well. ‘Yesterday’ is a melodic, sprawling number that features spiraling guitars over Franklin’s wistful vocals, with the band (featuring Ley Taylor on guitar, Josh Stoddard on bass, and Gerard Menke on pedal steel) adding a welcome, hazy vibe to the proceedings . It should be no surprise to anyone familiar with Franklin’s past output that surging guitars drive a bunch of these numbers, as ‘I’ll Be Yr Mechanic’ and ‘Sinking Ships’ both seethe restlessly with a fitful energy and intensity. What will be most startling about this record is the understated quality of the more subdued numbers, with the simmering beauty of ‘She’s Closer Than I’ve Ever Been’ and the mournful, raw emotion of ‘Guernica’ both showcasing a stark, more revealing side of Franklin’s songwriting.
These vulnerable, straightforward numbers permeate the entirety of I Could Sleep For A Thousand Years (which assuredly draws its name from VU’s ‘Venus In Furs’), as melody and a noticeably lighter tone colour these songs far more than the moody atmospherics of Franklin’s former work. Both ‘Mary Gunn’ and ‘The Road Is Long’ have a buoyant lilt to them that proves to be quite irresistible, entirely reminiscent of the lighter side of 60s radio. While ‘Carousel City’ has a melancholic, nostalgic feel to it, with Franklin musing plaintively about a long lost scene that never entirely materialized: “Everybody’s dancing on the bones of my town.” It’s a somber number that is perhaps a rueful examination of how other bands capitalized on a sound that Franklin helped develop, but even if this playground is now quite deserted, Franklin is still able to make his music, and he seems (and sounds) fine with still being afforded that distinct privilege.
The record closes with the solemn, Spiritualized-sounding (and titled) ‘Lord Help Me Jesus, I’ve Wasted A Soul,’ and the expansive, uplifting ‘Take Me To My Leader,’ which finds the band exploring the dreamlike, hypnotic qualities that has continually informed Franklin’s work throughout the years, just with a more melodic edge to it. It’s a fine finish to an album that has Franklin getting closer to the mercurial musical roots of his past, while also composing another dignified chapter in his ever-evolving sound and style. There are plenty of elegant surprises to be found on I Could Sleep For A Thousand Years, as well as a few familiar moments of shoegaze, all of which reminds us why we started listening to Adam Franklin in the first place, and also how nice it is to see that an old champion of the cause still has that creative fire burning within.