IF YOU LOOK up the town of Castleton in Derbyshire up on Wikipedia and scroll down to the section marked ‘Famous People’, you’ll find five results; a Puritan author, an industrialist, a guy that discovered fossils, an actor in Coronation Street… and Drenge. It’s safe to say that the Blues/Punk/Stoner Rock duo have risen high from the small town that they call home. Now on their second album, the brothers Loveless are regulars on the UK festival scene and are in the process of breaking into the U.S.. Their self-titled debut was an enjoyable listen that drew from Queens of the Stone Age and Arctic Monkeys, occasionally playing it safe, but nevertheless producing some strong songs, such as ‘Bloodsports’ and ‘Face Like A Skull’.
Discussing their second release a few months ago, the duo described their new album as having ‘more choruses’. Well, they were certainly right about that; Undertow has more prominent sing-a-long section in numerous tracks. That’s not to say that Undertow is particularly radio-friendly. If anything the album’s use of reverb and dark themes make this album less playable than its predecessor. I’d say the only real radio bait here are lead single ‘We Can Do What We Want’ (which is also easily the best track on the album) and ‘The Snake’.
Lyrically Drenge seem to have abandoned some of the themes presented in their debut; that of an almost gore-like nature. On Drenge, Eoin Loveless sang lines such as ‘I’ll go for liver and you go for brains/ Chew it up it’s human it all tastes the same’ on ‘Dogmeat’, a song bordering on gruesome. On Undertow, the duo seem to take a more noir approach to their music. ‘We Can Do What We Want’ tells of two lovers running off to a life of crime. ‘Favourite Son’ seems to speak from the point of view of a woman unhappy with her lover. It’s a development from their last release and as a theme, works well.
Musically the band haven’t strayed too far from their roots. As I previously stated, there are certain sing-a-long elements to these new songs and the use of reverb gives elements of the songs a bit of a Loveless edge. Undertow feels more developed, sound-wise, than Drenge. The band are growing into themselves and you can feel that on this album. The addition of bass guitar on two or three tracks fleshes out the songs nicely, although I wouldn’t want to see this as a permanent feature of the band; if feel like that would take something away from the brotherly line up.
With the band drawing from the likes of Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine and early Nirvana on this album, it pains me to say that I didn’t really feel like there were many standout songs on this release. Undertow keeps it snappy with most tracks not breaking the four minute mark, but there’s not a lot that really excites me on this album, certainly not like their debut did. It’s not a bad album, no way, but after a few listens, I already find myself growing bored. Drenge have grown, there’s no doubt about that, but I can’t see Undertow being remembered as their finest release.
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