Adam Franklin: Spent Bullets

Even through all the (purple) haze, you can still sense hints of Swervedriver on Franklin's second solo set.

Adam Franklin

Spent Bullets

Contributors: Adam Franklin
Label: Second Motion
US Release Date: 2009-03-31
UK Release Date: 2009-05-11

In a 2008 PopMatters interview, Adam Franklin expressed his apprehensions about a new album from a reunited Swervedriver. Namely, Franklin wasn't sure his current singer/songwriter-type writing style would fit with Swervedriver. Based on "Surge", the aptly named opener to his second solo album, Spent Bullets, Franklin's concerns seem unfounded. "Surge", a big, beautiful and shimmering piece of rock 'n' roll, has a big, major-key, divebombing chorus. You know, the kind Swervedriver was famous for. Just add Jez's forceful, ornate drumming, and "Surge" would be a highlight of any Swervedriver album on which it appeared.

But based on Spent Bullets' remaining nine tracks, Franklin had a point. The album settles into woozy, hazy and moody mode and remains there. Never mind that he's augmented by two members of his touring band. The image these songs evoke is Franklin, sitting in a dark bedroom/hotel room/dressing room, hunched over his guitar and a few effects pedals on the floor, just feelin' it. In the moment, this kind of slow-motion immersion probably seemed revelatory to Franklin, speaking the truth and saying what's on everyone's mind. Or at the very least, it must have felt like he was composing the coolest songs ever. Translating those feelings to the morning after when other people listen to these songs in their bedrooms or cars can be tricky.

For the most part, Franklin pulls it off. Even with Swervedriver, the borderline-petulant "cool, man" factor was always nearly as powerful as the music itself. Give these songs time and patience, and it gradually reveals melodies, hooks and genuine feelings. Here, Franklin doesn't navel-gaze until he's faint in the head. He continues his exploration of singer/songwriter and psychedelic folk music, too. "Teardrops Keep Fallin' Out My Head", as elegantly wasted as its title suggests, works its way with a pleasantly languid melody and enough guitar shimmers to qualify for Swervedriver's last album, 99th Dream. "Bolts of Melody" pulls the ol' would-be-title-track-for-the-previous-album switcheroo, waltzing its way into near-nirvana with its layered harmonies and Lou Reed-like tale of a girl named Melody who doesn't wanna die alone. Yep, this is that third-self-titled-Velvet Underground-album sweet spot.

Franklin's main accomplishment here is to stir blood and adrenaline with a minimum of speed or, often, volume. His laid back yet sincere croon of a voice proves perfect for this stuff, as it never calls much attention to itself but is magnetic just the same. "It Hurts to See You Go" is an anthem in slow motion, power chords and all. Instead of cranking up the bombast, though, Franklin has what sounds like a gamelan orchestra playing an uplifting little melody in the background. That's what kind of album Spent Bullets is. By the time you get to the Steely Dan-type backing harmonies on the far-out Hendrix jam "Big Sur", you shouldn't be surprised.

Though it follows a similar sonic trajectory, Spent Bullets categorizes as a more concise, focused effort than 2007's Bolts of Melody, for better and worse. Once the spell sets in, it's not broken by any more rockers or misdirected progressive rock influences. The blissfully disorienting feeling peaks on the teetering, swaying and rain-soaked "Champs". The downside is at that point you still have two more tracks to go, and your ability to hang with Franklin's hazy mood dissipates. "Anyone can play guitar," Radiohead once asserted correctly. But molding that guitar into a series of downtempo, smoked-out songs, one after another after another, is something else. It's tough to do in a consistently engaging way, and Franklin comes pretty close.

Interestingly enough, Spent Bullets could have just as easily worked under the Toshack Highway banner, the now-retired name Franklin used for his more off-beat, leisurely paced projects. You have a right to be angry with Franklin for teasing with that opening burst of rock 'n' roll energy, and then proceeding to let all the steam bleed out. But it bleeds out eloquently, and with an extra shot of tempo and energy, it could've just as easily gone the other way. Don't rule out that Swervedriver album just yet.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.