Drenge – Undertow

by Anam Zafar

Drenge's new album is like the older brother of their debut, offering more mature lyrics and complex melodies, says Anam Zafar.

The “band of brothers” Drenge is no longer just a band of brothers – with the addition of a bassist for their second album Undertow, a new dimension has really been added to the music.

Drenge got pretty popular pretty quickly with the release of their self-titled debut album in 2013, so when they announced that they would soon be releasing their second album, they were aware of the high expectations. There is no denying how great Drenge’s debut album was but it was pretty two-dimensional. Now, thanks to those bass lines, their sound has been beefed up and you can really hear the layers.

Undertow is very atmospheric – a word that wouldn’t have previously been associated with Drenge – with two instrumental tracks on the album and the tempo more slowed down than may have been expected, to show that this album is more reflective and outward-looking. There are fewer moments of completely letting go; it’s more subdued, with Eoin really singing and only saving the snarl for special occasions, as well as favouring thoughtful guitar lines over constantly over-distorted chords. Likewise, Rory also seems to have more control over the drums rather than just letting them run wild, maybe because working with a bass line has tamed them – in a good way.

Despite this, there are still moments in the album that will get your feet moving. We Can Do What We Want is a feel-good, fun song that sees the band at its poppiest yet, which you can tell just from the first five seconds of the opening riff. Considering its title, it’s not surprising that this song has already become a live favourite among Drenge’s predominantly teenage audiences.

With the exception of We Can Do What We Want, Undertow is less angsty and attention-seeking than the band’s debut and Eoin’s unique lyric style has really developed. As an example, you won’t find any lyrics like “make you piss your pants” in this album; the band have had their moment of immaturity and are over it. Equally, a recurring theme in the debut album was the futility of love, whereas now, he tells us that “I just want to be loved” in Favourite Son and will admit that “I thought we were in love” in the song Standing In The Cold. That doesn’t mean that this is an album full of soppy love songs, though: the lyrics have an underlying feeling of anger and regret. Something else that I really like about this band is that Eoin sings with an unmistakeable British accent; he isn’t afraid of it and doesn’t try to mask it with a pseudo-American one like so many frontmen do these days.

With Undertow, Drenge aren’t trying to recreate their debut album. They’ve been there and done that and want to try something else. This time the world was already listening, so they could take their time and experiment. With the new songs having more melody and complexity to them, Undertow seems like the older, wiser brother of the two albums, maybe reflecting the real Drenge brothers’ state of mind following their establishment onto the British music scene.

Picks:

Favourite Son, The Snake, The Woods

Rating: 4/5