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Music

The best kept secret in music

Press


""Magnetic Morning" (Sonic Unyon, 2003)"

Once again the magnificent ADAM FRANKLIN, former (and maybe future?) front man of Oxford's well-missed SWERVEDRIVER, makes stupendous music that far, far, far too few will hear. It happened in 2001 with his 'Everyday Rock 'n' Roll is Saving My Life? EP, his solo four-track recordings for L.A.'s Space Baby label. Now it's happening again, on these five more-fleshed-out songs of even better value.

Part of it is that he keeps confusing folks (why?) by using the Toshack Highway moniker, even though Toshack's more-widely-heard, self-titled 2000 LP was light-years-removed stylistically: a space-rock/electronic one-off. Whereas this release, like the EP, is acoustic based folk-pop that would more likely fit into the last two Swervedriver LPs. So even the legions of Swervie fans aren't hip to the 2001 EP or this new split release with his friends, Sianspheric.

And it's a shame, because his five tracks are almost routinely fantastic. - (THE BIG TAKEOVER)


"Toshack Highway – Everyday, Rock ’n ’Roll Is Saving My Life (Space Baby, 2001)"

Everyday Rock and Roll Is Saving My Life could quite possibly be the best title to a record I've heard (nothing sums up my personal philosophy of life more than those eight words). I guess I shouldn't expect anything less from Adam Franklin the ex-frontman of one of the best bands in the world. Toshack Highway's second release is a humble acoustic E.P. and probably Franklin's best post-Swervedriver release. His Beatlesque style is subtle and very dreamy - think Elliott Smith meets Nick Drake. The first song, ‘The Hitcher', converts an old Swervedriver song into a pop gem, "Hitch a ride on your smile, hitch a ride on your smile..." What could make you more happy than lines like that.

Franklin has dumped the experimental sounds of the first Toshack album and totally stripped the music down to an intimate recording. At times you feel he's in your living room serenading you with an acoustic guitar. The songs are great, well worth attention, and will be a delight for anyone, Swervedriver fan or not. Greatness is definitely on the way for Toshack Highway. - (FIRESIDEOMETER.COM)


"Toshack Highway – Self titled aka 'The Orange Album' (Catapult / Flower Shop, 2000)"

The fruits of Adam Franklin's first foray outside of Swervedriver is a mixed bag of somber acoustic tracks, sci fi-meets-spaghetti western instrumentals, and a little worldly dabbling. Franklin, Charlie Francis (studio accomplice of REM and High Llamas), and Jeff Towsin (Sophia) take on enough ideas to make this a sprawl, but repeated listenings divulge an LP brimming with many cohesive concepts.

The majority of Toshack Highway alternates between instrumental and vocal tracks; the clutch of Franklin-sung tunes will appeal to fans of Swervedriver's dusky, slo-motion B-sides from 99th Dream and Ejector Seat Reservation. They sometimes resemble the lighter, more whimsical aspects of early T. Rex, but Franklin's lyrics are normally more brooding and resigned than Marc Bolan's.

The instrumentals are playful, balancing out the more serious vocal tracks. There's enough imagination boiling over to make for several Toshack releases. More than anything, the record screams for Franklin to devote an entire LP to his downcast vocal chestnuts. - (ALL MUSIC GUIDE)


""Magnetic Morning" (Sonic Unyon, 2003)"

Rather than bemoan the shoegazing's demise, perhaps we should be thankful that some of the movement's leading figures are still making quality music. Adam Franklin, former frontman and chief songwriter for Swervedriver, has spent his days since the band's last album in 1998 involved in a constantly morphing project called Toshack Highway.

Rather than replicate the lush, saturated feel of the Swervedriver recordings, Franklin has used the Toshack Highway to indulge both his electronic and folk muses; his lone full-length, 2000's self-titled album, found Franklin exploring the former, as a supporting cast of musicians helped him add modern production touches and a more experimental flavor to his melodies. The two EPs he's released since, including the one being reviewed here, have a decidedly more lo-tech feel. Swervedriver's layered sheets of feedback are shelved in favor of simple, direct acoustic songs.

This approach might be anathema to longtime Swervedriver enthusiasts, but those with patience will find much to like about Franklin's earthy and warm arrangements. This is not to say that Franklin completely severs the ties with his other outfit. In fact, unlike many side or solo projects, Franklin has always referenced his previous work while under the guise of Toshack.

In concert, he has been known to cover Swervedriver a-sides and b-sides. Meanwhile, on this EP, we are treated to a drastic revision of the last song on Swervedriver's 99th Dream, "Behind the Scenes and Sounds of the Times" (here shortened to "The Sounds and the Times"). Franklin recasts the song as a Simon and Garfunkel-styled folk tune, with the melody delicately rendered on acoustic guitar as Franklin's signature drawl does the rest. - (PITCHFORK MEDIA)


"Toshack Highway – Everyday, Rock ’n ’Roll Is Saving My Life (Space Baby, 2001)"

Stripped of all circulation, promotion, even recollection, Adam Franklin plows forward like a forgotten hero from ages past. Frontman and anchor of Swervedriver, perhaps the most underappreciated rock band of the past decade (definitely where the record labels are concerned), Franklin rebounded from the demise of Zero Hour, Swerve's last U.S. label, to release Toshack Highway in 2000 on Catapult.

It was the left-field album of the year, and, to these ears, the album of the year, a revelatory half-instrumental collection wrapped in a shroud of analog synthesizers and infused with a My Bloody Valentine warmth. Franklin reappears again under the Toshack Highway moniker, this time with a four-song EP that's more like Swervedriver unplugged, or at least quiet, 4-track Swervedriver.

The EP's biggest success, in fact, is a reworked version of a Swervedriver song, albeit a B-side only devoted fans have heard. And that's a shame because "The Hitcher" is one of the great band's finest songs, an ode to aimless drifting ("I'm like a ship moored on dry land") and possible redemption. Here it appears beatless and clean, chiming in all its melodic brilliance. The other three songs play like Swervedriver's mellow B-sides (not a bad thing). We've heard "Seize The Day" before and liked it. The title track is the least successful, but closer "O Sweet Daughter" is sweetly retro. - (NUDE AS THE NEWS)


""Magnetic Morning" (Sonic Unyon, 2003)"

The punching, circling 'The Streets That Spin Off' is on par with 'The Hitcher' and 'Seize the Day' from last time, only he adds simple, rhythmic drums and a bouncy bass for a full band sound - the guitars pick at odd chords on the verses, while darting, electric feedback sounds converge to add a ghostly hum to the charging bridges as Franklin's distinctive, strong voice swoops.

On the scrumptious waltz 'Cannery Row' (inspired by the JOHN STEINBACK novel?), his deceptive guitar again drags you into its pretty but wistful mood, and his singing emotes simple yearning: "C'mon, Don't pass me by/You can't hesitate or you'll leave it too late/Leaving here tonight." Plus, the fields he evokes add a pastoral touch.

'Country Grass' continues the bucolic shade, in a laconic, bluesy, dead-afternoon style; few do this sort of thing better, either. The more insistent '(She's Got) Celestial Navigation,' is an up-tempo romp that gives way to all-too-brief classic Swervedriver passages/teases. And finally, just as 'The Hitcher' was revamped from its rare Swervedriver full band B-side version, 99th Dream's closing 'The Sounds & the Times' not only given the unplugged treatment, but Franklin's quiet and lovely picking and more hushed vocal transform a powerful song into a delightful, sighing, poetic one!

Fortunately, Sonic Unyon is a bigger label than Space Baby, so perhaps word will leak out that this is more of the great Franklin that old fans knew and loved. One wishes for a whole LP of this temperament, like Justin Sullivan's and John Doe's, but for now, there's no missing what little he manages to get out there! - (THE BIG TAKEOVER)


Discography

Toshack Highway (aka the orange album) 2000 Flower Shop/Catapult
Everyday, Rock'n'Roll Is Saving My Life EP 2001 Space Baby
Magnetic Morning/Aspirin Age (split 2CD release with Sianspheric 2003 Sonic Unyon
Everyday, Rock'n'Roll Is Saving My Life Vol 2 2005 SWD (full length album of outakes, rarities, demos etc)
Birdsong EP 2006 Shifty Disco (download release)

Photos

Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Adam Franklin spent the 1990's as singer, guitarist
and songwriter for London-based Swervedriver, the
Creation Records band that rocked-out on the template of The Stooges, the Velvet Underground, Husker Du and Sonic Youth at the same time as lurking on the fringes of the shoegazer scene along with labelmates My Bloody Valentine and Ride.

Since Swervedriver 'went into orbit' in 1999, Adam has explored Kraftwerk-like electronics, John Fahey-esque acoustic guitar picking as well as some
Swervedriver-like electric guitar distortion on three
releases under the name Toshack Highway.

Some of the new recordings certainly rock in a
Swervedriver-like way, but they also retain elements
of the electronica, Hendrix-filtered guitars and
acoustic picking of the Toshack releases; some songs
have a warm Elliott Smith lo-fi buzz and some float on a bubbly country vibe - pop songs that would crackle from radios in parallel worlds.