Tuesday 28 April 2015

Review of 'Undertow' by Drenge

I’ve never been to Castleton before. From the pretty pictures I’ve seen, the Derbyshire village seems like a rather quaint place to live, the kind of place where Morris dancing is still celebrated, the kind of place Enid Blyton might have set one of her novels.


It certainly doesn’t seem like the kind of a place a band like Drenge would come from. Made up of two brothers who go by the name of Eoin and Rory Loveless, the group first made heat when they dropped their debut album in 2013, a raw and angsty guitar record containing romantic track titles such as ‘People in love make me yuck’ and ‘I want to break you in half’. The I-hate-the-world attitude and rough production made Drenge charmingly uncharming. They had a rock and roll spirit to them that too many of today’s rock bands lack.

Two years later, we now have this new record Undertow. It isn’t quite as raw or angsty – which turns out to be both a blessing and curse. The sound is now bigger thanks to the addition of a bassist. As someone who likes rawness and eats their steak with a pulse, I’m not overly happy to see the duo trading in their intimate pub sound for stadium production. However, a greater focus on atmosphere has come as a result with reverb-heavy tracks like the ‘Introduction’ and following track ‘Running Wild’ perfectly capturing the spooky, nightly vibe of the album cover. The riffs are also still meaty, despite not as rough around the edges, and the drumming is still primal as showcased on tracks like ‘Never Awake’.


Lyrically, the band have decided to ditch their teenage moodiness for a more grown-up maturity, which is a bit disappointing as it means no funny track titles. However, the rebelliousness is still present in songs like ‘We Can Do What We Want’. The songwriting seems to have also got better – ‘Standing in the Cold’ relying on storytelling and instrumentation that builds and matches the tone. Glumness and anger seem to still be the band’s two favourite emotions, but instead of being blunt and cynical, the band instead use these songs to show the root cause of their moroseness. Heartbreak serves as a common theme, which proves these two brothers might not be as loveless as they claim. Thankfully this heartbreak comes without soppiness – which allows Drenge to still have the same rock and roll vibe that was on their debut.

They may be adults now and they may have more money to spend on production, but on the whole Drenge haven’t lost their charisma. In fact, as musical progressions go, this is pretty encouraging new direction for the band.