Release: Drowners (Album)
Release Date: 28/01/2014
Bands, bands, bands and more bands… it’s bloody difficult to get to the bar between the be-suited, be-leathered, be-quiffed, be-fringed, be-brogued, be-Conversed hoards whom crowd into the toilet-circuit-pub that is the grotty and neglected guitar corner of the music industry. And all I want is half a Guinness and a flirt with the over-the-hill barmaid…
This congestion is despite Radio 1 head honcho George Ergatoudis asserting that “indie R&B – R&B made with an independent, experimental mindset” and “male singer-songwriters” will dominate 2014’s musical landscape. One would hazard a guess that this is true of the, at times, asinine output of the station during the daytime. But, hey, blokes such as Zane Lowe and Huw Stephens have a shitload to choose from for their Radio 1 nighttime specialist slots!
There is no power shortage of uncompromising and exhilarating indie, punk, garage or rock ‘n’ roll bands being bigged-up for mega breakthrough success this year by the usual suspects (NME, The Fly et al); expect to have your ear drums pommel-horsed by a herd of thunderous gweetars from the likes of Skaters, Perfect Pussy, The Orwells, Darlia, Circa Waves, Fat White Family, Childhood… the list is as long as an ape’s arm…
But, for the moment (it took me a while to get to this), let us talk about Drowners.
The opening song on New York-based Drowners’ self-titled debut album is named ‘Ways To Phrase A Rejection’. It is born with a choppy panning-on-alternate-beats guitar riff, before developing in it’s adolescence into something far more jangly while the rhythm section certainly has hair on its’ chest; this is all in the 16 seconds before the vocal comes in.
I’m not one that tends to throw around sloppy comparisons to more established artistes in order to explain how a new act sounds but I’m going to have to submit to one here because when the vocal comes in… bejesus, it sounds like Julian Casablancas. A little due to the laidback crooning of Drowners’ Welsh-born singer Matthew Hitt and partly due to the production on the vocal which has the same megaphone distortion that was used on Julian’s voice on ‘Is This It’. This is the last I will speak of it because actually ‘The Ways To Phrase A Rejection’ is a fun and speedy (1 minute 46 second) indie pop song that, if listened to without pretension, is most enjoyable in a 2001-listening-to-it-in-my-college-dormroom kind of way.
One thing that Drowners store in their lockers is an abundance of melody both in the vocal and guitar departments. Single, ‘Luv, Hold Me Down’ has a swooning, school boy crush vibe to it, with plenty of lovely vocal hooks to seduce you and the jangly 80’s guitars that feature prominently throughout the album. ‘Bar Chat’ packs more of a punky, bratty punch whilst retaining it’s sense of melody and ‘Unzip Your Harrington’ is super chilled with some quirky lyrics, ‘Oh boy you look so suave when you unzip your Harrington’.
So, in a year packed to the rafters with brand new bands, where do Drowners squeeze in? If you listen to this album disregarding completely the concepts of ‘originality’ and ‘innovation’ or if you listen to this album imagining you’re 18, it’s 2004, and you’re pissed on Carlsberg in FROG; you may bloody love it. The issue for Drowners is that they are, perhaps, unlikely to be heard above the cacophony of more heralded and, ultimately, individual new music.
Reviewer: Joel Alexander