Album Reviews - Reviews

Drenge – Drenge


As introductions to the national consciousness go, it was truly surreal. Amid alleged underhand shenanigans over candidate selection, Labour election co-ordinator Tom Watson publicly fell on his sword via an open letter to his party leader, Ed Miliband; a missive which suggested that public servants would be much improved by attending Glastonbury and specifically recommending that those reading listen to Drenge. Quite how young brothers Eoin and Rory Loveless felt about their role in this political suicide is moot; no publicity is bad publicity, it’s said, and any band capable of bringing about spontaneous abdication in our beloved leaders is surely worthy of some attention.

And so it proves. Drenge is, as one might expect from a duo sporting merely guitar, drums and vocals, a raucous garage rock album. Rather than rehashing the bluesy clatter of the White Stripes or the Black Keys, though, the pair source their primal howl from the depths of the nineties grunge swamp – think Dinosaur Jr, Mudhoney, Tad, even Bleach-era Nirvana. Drenge deftly sidestep the genre’s pitfalls, eschewing the dourness and ham-fisted Nevermind-isms which felled the likes of Nine Black Alps in favour of thick, black riffs driven by powerhouse drumming and vocals which channel both J. Mascis’ sardonic drawl and occasional bursts of Alice In Chains-style downbeat harmony. So yes, it’s dark, but startlingly energetic and laced with sardonic humour, from ‘Backwaters’ sideways look at small-town thuggery (“Blackened eyes and a purple nose/Missing teeth, I got a lot of those”), to ‘I Don’t Want to Make Love to You’s deliciously puerile twisting of the Etta James standard ‘I Just Want to Make Love to You’, to Sebadoh-esque standout ‘Face Like a Skull’ and its rueful sneer at youthful chat-up technique (“Everything I do, seems like I’m trying to be rude/And everything I say is always taken the wrong way”).

It’s a breathless romp, with the brothers only taking their foot off the gas after remarkably intense penultimate track ‘Let’s Pretend’, seven feedback-drenched minutes of chug-and-build to an explosive crescendo, for a languid strum through ‘Fuckabout’. Drenge is angry, intelligent, sarcastic and quite brilliant – one of 2013’s most impressive debuts. Who said our politicians don’t know what they’re talking about? Lee Gorman