SAN FRANCISCO — Shoegaze bands Failure and Swervedriver share several similarities: Both have taken lengthy hiatuses, returned and released recent records faithful to their signature styles. So it came as no surprise that both drew many crossover followers to the Fillmore Tuesday.
Failure’s newer records are clean, sonically sophisticated and take full advantage of today’s digital recording tools. Live, the band works like a space launch, and perfection and attention to detail are key. This is all due to the keen ear of lead singer, guitarist, bassist, producer and sound engineer Ken Andrews, whose goal is to transport the audience to Failure’s flawlessly assembled soundscapes. This is a band that knows how to please the audiophile.
Starting with the grinding “Solar Eyes,” off 2018’s In The Future, Your Body Will Be, The Furthest Thing and From Your Mind, the band embraced its newer material. Andrews’ buzzing feedback and fuzzy chugging guitars matched well with Greg Edwards’ mammoth bass lines. The show continued with more recent cuts “Distorted Fields” and “Heavy and Blind.” While the new songs were welcome, others like “Pillowhead,” “Another Space Song” and “Stuck On You,” from Fantastic Planet, received the most energy from the crowd.
“Undone” and “Frogs,” both from 1994 album Magnified, sounded as fresh as ever when paired with the band’s immaculate sound production. Andrews and Edwards swapped bass and guitar duties throughout the set, wielding the crisp sounding Jazzmaster-inspired aluminum signature guitar and a jet black Precision bass. Edwards even took vocal and keyboard duties on the apocalyptic and “The Pineal Electorate,” which recalled Pink Floyd and was one of the band’s best recent efforts. The set concluded with a double punch of songs from 1992’s Comfort: “Macaque” and “Screen Man.” The band was not afraid to embrace its past while remaining futuristic at the same time.
Setting up the double bill, Oxford, England band Swervedriver brought its blend of hazy atmospherics and spacey rock. Swervedriver reunited in 2008 and recorded two tight albums, including 2019’s Future Ruins. Though better known for its influential shoegaze legacy, the band mostly performed songs from recent albums.
The set felt gloomy, but immediate and in-your-face. Songs like “Mary Winter” and “Drone Lover” strengthened the band’s hold on the shoegaze throne while still being able to sound original. On classics like “Deep Seat,” from 1991’s Raise, guitarists Adam Franklin and Jimmy Hartridge deployed their wave of distorted noise rock that soothed and hypnotized fans. Even songs like “Lone Star,” from 2015’s I Wasn’t Born To Lose You, received the same amount of crowd enthusiasm as the landmark songs.
The band closed with the crushing “Duel,” from Mezcal Head, which felt like an earnest send-off into Failure’s following set.
No Win opened with a sound that blended early Nada Surf with Dinosaur Jr. Its earnest slacker style felt at home on the lineup.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified the album that features Failure’s “Solar Eyes.” Fantastic Planet was corrected to In The Future, Your Body Will Be, The Furthest Thing and From Your Mind.