The modern blues-rock duo has largely been an American phenomenon.
From arena botherers like The White Stripes and The Black Keys to newer, less monochromatic bands, such as The Kills and Deap Vally, it’s been hard for British acts to get a look in. Enter Drenge, a pair of brothers from Derbyshire that seem to be rather good at making a huge noise with just guitars and drums. Having generated a lot of buzz from their unhinged and energetic early singles, does their self-titled debut album make good on their early promise?
Opener ‘People In Love Make Me Feel Yuck’ is gloriously rough and ready and, clocking in at 111, is a perfect mission statement from the band. Singles ‘Bloodsports’ and ‘Backwaters’ sound just as exciting as they did on their own, with the former’s punishing final riff equal to anything Jack White’s been able to come with in the past couple of years. Heaviest of all is ‘Gun Crazy’, with Eoin Loveless’ guitar work almost straying into metal territory. However, there’s enough attention to melody within the endless riffs to make the record a joy to listen to, rather than a blues-rock chore, and the Loveless brothers avoid the Americanisms that could so easily ruin the album the create a sound that is truly and uniquely British.
Even when the pace slows down, Drenge still hold their own and prove they’re no one-trick ponies. ‘Bye Bye Bao Bao’ comes straight from the Sonic Youth school of distorted lullabies, while the 8 minute epic ‘Let’s Pretend’ feels like The Cribs at their most wailing and aggressive, with Eoin’s voice managing to sound both powerful and fragile. As Rory Loveless’ crashing drums begin to dominate its final minutes, it’s clear that there could be something special awaiting the brothers in the near future. Closing track ‘Fuckabout’, despite its strongly worded title, is easily the calmest thing on the record and a nice come down from all the chaos that’s preceded it.
Drenge’s ferocious first album may not be shattering musical boundaries or propel them into the big leagues (not immediately, at least), it still remains a damn fine British rock album, something that we’ve been sorely lacking in recent times. May this be the start of something glorious.