Drenge – Undertow (Album Review)

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Drenge’s first self-titled album attracted a large fanbase because they inserted a bit of fury and aggression into their garage rock with influences of grunge. They made a lot of noise for a duo and stood at the much less melodic side of garage rock when compared to contemporaries like Royal Blood. Although their song-writing was solid they did somewhat feel a tad empty as a band without a bassist to beef up their sound. It felt like they relied a little too heavily on distortion to give them that raw edge and it really grew tiresome towards the end of their first album.

On ‘Undertow’ the Loveless brothers have a recruited a third member, Rob Graham to play bass alongside them on numerous tracks on the album. His presence is very much felt on tracks such as ‘We Can Do What We Want’ – the lead single off of this album – which has the band channelling their inner Ramones with some of the cleanest guitar tones from the entire album and a pop sensibility rarely seen in the band. Having some hard bass allows them to have the space they need to play around to with their guitars creating those slightly jangly tones.

Arctic Monkeys producer, Ross Orton had his hands all over the production on this album and it’s evident as the ways in which Drenge beef up their guitars are much more inventive than they were on their debut. Drenge’s song-writing has always been slightly menacing so it seems fitting that from the outset with their introduction we get guitars that are wrapped in reverb and effects. They often sound like they’re taking influence from Shoegaze bands when they do this, they don’t simply use reverb to cover up bland playing but they use it to enhance their sound and create a murky atmosphere. Underneath all the effects we’ve got riffs that are a lot more memorable and menacing than on their debut. Songs like ‘Never Awake’ mix Eion Loveless’ extremely memorable guitar playing with his ability to make long, drawn out and sleepy vocal melodies fantastically.

Perhaps the best thing in their instrumentation comes from the drummer Rory Loveless who has constant clarity throughout the songs. His snares and tight grooves always sound so crisp compared to the murky water that it’s surrounded by. ‘Running Wild’ has him providing some of the best drumming on the whole album in that fantastic breakdown in which you can imagine the brothers bouncing off the walls while playing it live. ‘Second Son’ provides some of the most memorable work from the band on all accounts with a chemistry that could only come from a pair of brothers with every drum beat and guitar note played so idiosyncratically with each other.

This album isn’t perfect, and doesn’t feel like it’s the best thing that Drenge could do just yet. They do occasionally get lost along the way in their effects once again like on ‘Have You Forgotten My Name?’ and they also wear their Queens Of The Stone Age influence a bit too strongly on tracks like ‘The Snake’. But it’s still a step in the right direction in that throughout the vast majority of this album they sound like a band who are maturing, shaping their own sound and not so much sounding like they fit into the current English guitar music ‘scene’ but are distancing themselves from it. Fans of the first album may miss some of over the top rawness of it, but these guys are taking steps in the right direction into possibly becoming something really special.

7.5/10

Best Tracks: We Can Do What We Want, Never Awake, Second Son, Running Wild

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