The chances are that if you’ve heard of Drenge, it’s in connection with Labour MP Tom Watson, who recommended that Ed Miliband listen to the band in his letter of resignation in 2013. He commented that, “I’m in a field in Glastonbury, falling in love with a bloke barely in his twenties, playing the guitar like a mid-west cyclone.” The barely bloke is Eoin Loveless, whose younger brother Rory accompanies him on drums. First impressions on listening to their debut eponymous album were that they were a couple of shouty lads from up north, with quirky track titles like F*ckabout, People In Love Make Me Feel Yuck and I Want To Break You In Half. The full album was a bit much for me, relentless and unforgivingly ranty at times, but there was enough there to glimpse the promise in tracks like Bloodsports and Nothing. And the boys are amusing to follow on Twitter – random and fun, promoting themselves with a lack of excess, inbetween tweets about purchasing washing machines.
So I felt some degree of amazement when the lads let slip that they were appearing at Shea Stadium supporting Wolf Alice and performing on the Letterman Show!
And thanks to Letterman I now know that they come from Dur-bee-shy-a.
So to Undertow. Let’s say straight away that these guys have upped their game massively with this album. Their energy has been harnessed and shaped into something which remains powerful, but is substantially more accessible to the rant averse such as myself. The introduction has jangling echoes of The Cult which kicks straight into Running Wild, setting the scene of taut propulsion. The title track is a brooding and dark instrumental, which would be rather fabulous as the backdrop to a movie scene, where a body is dragged from the abandoned car depicted on the album cover, or some other murderous event. First single, We Can Do What We Want, seems to cover familiar ground, the video showing a bunch of thoroughly disreputable characters behaving in a yobbish and objectionable way (nicking people’s chips for heaven’s sake!) but isn’t entirely representative of the album.
Never Awake, a cracking track, has the drums pounding away, relentless guitar energy driving forwards and a really likeable non shouty vocal. “Now in love growing up, like a slave to the suburbs, addicted to buying more stuff.” And there’s the crux of it, they are growing up, but in a dissatisfied fashion. There’s a huge dose of man child permeating the music, still resorting to punky outbursts, but in Favourite Son there’s a sexual desperation and in Standing In The Cold, weary resignation that you normally associate with the disappointment of life experience. They flex the musical muscle more effectively, and you sense that they are looking at the landscape rather than the bedroom wall. Side By Side, another belter, opens with clapping and just seems much more musically thoughtful and complex than in the past with the variety of drum beats, harmonising vocals and the introduction of the bass player, which has given more depth. Then blow me if The Woods isn’t actually (pauses for effect) gentle, and even quotes the Lord’s Prayer. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, this is the font and this is the aisle, this is the casket and this is the steeple, burn my body by the banks of the Derwent, and it wouldn’t mean anything at all, nothing sacred nothing special to you.” All the good ‘uns reserve the right to surprise and this was not what I expected at all.
By this point I’m finding it pretty hard to say anything negative, but wonder what the heck went on in the Peak District to spawn such sinister music. I have to hold my hands up to thinking that this could be 2015’s Royal Blood. With a northern accent.