Robin Hughes reviews the debut, self-titled album by Drenge.
You may have heard of Drenge in the context that Tom Watson MP mentioned them in his recent resignation letter. Now, being name-checked by Tom Watson isn’t as bad as having David Cameron profess his undying love for you, but that’s like saying being bitten by a bear isn’t as bad as being bitten by a shark. No self-respecting band wants to be co-opted into the political establishment. However, don’t let this put you off Drenge; their debut album is a fantastic racket, full of devastating riffs and pulverising drums.
Being a rock duo with some notably blues-indebted songs, there have inevitably been comparisons of to the White Stripes. While there are similarities to certain heavier Stripes tracks, a more apt reference would be Death From Above 1979, whose only album You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine was a relentless beast of overdriven bass. Drenge invariably begin their songs with a blast of scuzzy guitar before the drums arrive to propel the thing forward for a couple of minutes at full throttle, then stop before anything has time to become tired. A quick look at some of the track titles and durations will give you an idea of what to expect: ‘People In Love Make Me Feel Yuck’ – 1.51; ‘I Wanna Break You In Half’ – 1.52; ‘Bloodsports’ – 2.34; ‘Gun Crazy’ – 2.07.
There may not be much in the way of innovation on offer here, but that is not the point of Drenge. They take a given formula – fast, abrasive, bluesy rock – and bring it back to its carnal roots -listen to this album loud and I defy you to remain still. The track where they stray furthest from this formula, the 8-minute ‘Let’s Pretend’, is the weakest on the album; it is a perfectly serviceable slower number, drenched in overdriven chords, but lacks the visceral power that is the band’s main appeal. However, the very next track shows that they don’t take themselves too seriously, and probably won’t embark on an overblown concept album any time soon – ‘Fuckabout’ begins “This song is a fuckabout/ Not one to write home about”.
Image Credit: Infectious