Review of Undertow Album by Drenge

Frequently bracketed with fellow noise ingénues Royal Blood, brothers Eoin and Rory Loveless (aka Drenge) are a subtler proposition, mixing drone-rock, grunge and, on 'Undertow', freshly acquired elements of new wave into a sound which should deliver the wider audience they deserve.

Drenge Undertow Album

If their eponymous début was a fascinating, if narrow, journey through 21st century indie blues, the newly expanded almost trio (Bassist Rob Graham appears on three tracks) have produced something transformative here: songs like 'Never Awake' seethe with a restless energy, demonstrating a horizon-expanding resolve not unlike that with which The Horrors faced down their self-imposed demons on the cathartic 'Primary Colours'. From rural Derbyshire but having been adopted by neighbouring Sheffield, this new dimension extends to a pummelling, exuberant swagger reminiscent a little of their new city's alumni the Arctic Monkeys, 'We Can Do What We Want' an orthodox, clipped spitfire of a song, the sort which gleefully overloads on shot glass rhetoric and careless guitars. This splay-footed approach runs through the following 'Favourite Son', the subject fighting need and expectation in equal measure whilst the caterwauling garage, wrapped in squalls of feedback and hunted by elephantine drums, manages to sound pissed off and elegiac at the same time.   

The age we live in seems to create in many artists the urge to change the received wisdom around themselves. The Loveless brothers have made light of their origins in a Peak District village, one in which the Post Office is a tiny whitewashed building that looks like it was built in the 19th century. Its event horizon probably isn't as strong as that of a city; instead, they've created a musical escape pod, in which the urban sprawl of their other reality is only a pedal effect away. The hand-claps of 'Side By Side' have it, whilst the awkward, stilted tempo of the album's title track also inherently possesses the skyline and pavement's elemental stink. The latter retains the feel of gradual weight settling, of a burden that feels less wanted as the notes go by. Not quite brutal, it's still the sound of an idyll being torn down, and accordingly of young men who value decay as much as tranquillity.

Strange to say it, but given the critical heft they've earned to date, making such a concerted effort to leave its confines - in the same way you might take a one way ticket out of the place of your adolescence - is a brave move, one which the mid-way identity of 'Undertow' speaks to in its last two songs. 'Standing In The Cold' showcases the band's new found ability to temper their power with finesse, a near six minute marathon of peaks and distortion, but still a song all the same. Closer 'Have You Forgotten My Name', however, is less emblematic, another tune drowning in the band's crepuscular layers of atmosphere, a bloodless tale that remains trapped somewhere in the hinterland in which Drenge choose to exist, stateless.

It must be a perspective which is hard to fathom to the outsider: brothers from a one horse town making music together, all the emotional interplay and none of the release. 'Undertow' is a record which will take the siblings to the edge of the mainstream. How much of their identity they will want to sacrifice to it is a question only time can answer.


Andy Peterson

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