There’s no escaping the fact that duos and double-acts are a rarity in music (certainly in rock ‘n’ roll) although the idea has clearly gained momentum following the successes of bands like The White Stripes and The Black Keys. However, though Drenge share the guitar/vocals and drums approach of the rock duo, it still remains more or less impossible to pin down their sound to any specific genre. Whether alt-rock, punk or grunge, it is raw, unique and harrowing to listen to.
The band is made up of Derbyshire’s Loveless brothers, Rory and Eoin. Their first self-titled LP, Drenge, blasted onto the UK music scene and charts dominated by average aviccii-esque dance tracks, and watery singer-songwriters in the Ed Sheeran mould. There’s nothing wistful about lines like “I wanna do you harm / I wanna break you in half”. No middle-of-the-road rock – it’s a fresh sound; minimal but crushingly energetic at the same time.
The guitars on the album are rough and ragged with plenty of crunch, particularly on tracks like Backwaters, and People In Love Make Me Feel Yuck. There’s a real sense of seething angst under the band’s sound, with the brothers channelling Them Crooked Vultures one moment, and The Artic Monkeys the next. They’re far from shy with their song writing, as even a quick glance down the song titles will tell you: Gun Crazy, Face Like a Skull, and Fuckabout were never going to be heart-wrenching ballads – they’re packed full of vicious riffs and a rarely heard lyrical aggression. Top pick off the album, Nothing, is a great example of the duo’s approach – opening with heavy overdrive-ridden guitar chords and transitioning into crisp rhythm, the track’s got a real blues sense about it. Particularly in the riffing around 2:20, Jack White’s playing on Ball and Biscuit comes to mind. The lyrics are full of intent, with the brothers delivering lines dripping with violence.
My tongue, bloodsucking,
But please don’t stop ‘til I’m reduced to nothing.
Undoubtedly, Drenge have all the qualities to be an outstanding live act, and we’re pretty pumped to welcome them to The Cavern on October 8th. With the band gaining strong reviews from their gigs at festivals such as Reading/Leeds over the summer, we’re looking forward to hearing them on the night. If they can deliver even half the energy on the record, we’re positive it’ll be one to remember.
Not being massively in the loop myself when it comes to politics I had no idea who Tom Watson was or why he was resigning last month. However, one thing is for sure: the Labour MP was on the money when his resignation letter recommended Drenge to Ed Miliband as an ‘awesome band’. An unlikely way to enter the public eye that’s for sure, and having listened to their album it is so characteristic of the dour bandmembers that they declared themselves ‘not totally overjoyed’ at the praise.
Loveless is the surname of Drenge band members Rory and Eoin, and as the album progresses this becomes increasingly appropriate. Their self-titled debut is a darkly cynical and sometimes unsettling ride, which the Peak District brothers attest to their dull and stagnant homelife during their adolescence. “Cut out my tongue and turn it to dogmeat… give it to the hobo to eat”, sings Loveless on Dogmeat. This line sums up the basic tone of the album’s lyrics: graphic and strange yet slightly tongue-in-cheek (or not as he may wish).
In reality though, lyrics come second to sound on this album; not least because Rory Loveless’s insidious drawl often obscures them. Drenge really hit their stride on faster tracks like album highlight, Bloodsports. Here the band lay down an infectious guitar riff, which is transformed into a murky sort of groove when the drums enter the fray, and the unexpected change of tempo in the final third of the song enters vintage QOTSA headbanger territory.
However the band are extremely hard to pin down to a single genre or influence. This is epitomised at the back end of the album where the brilliant track, Fuckabout has a sparse intro which recalls The Libertines, except the guitar in the chorus is more heavy and reminiscent of The Smashing Pumpkins. Yet the preceding track, prog-metal influenced Let’s Pretend, is an unwelcome departure from the rest of the album. Overly long at 8 minutes, it lacks the directness and punch of the other 11 songs. “Make you run to the hills, make you piss your pants”, Loveless sneers on the exhilarating I Want To Break You In Half – a line which pays tribute to Iron Maiden and reminds us that both in lyrical content and the heaviness of the guitar, Drenge are heavily influenced by heavy metal.
Both on the basis of this extremely strong debut effort, and a gig I was lucky enough to see earlier this month, Drenge certainly belie the fact that there are only two of them, and in an enclosed venue like Cavern the sound will only be more enormous.
A must see.