DRENGE // "STRANGE CREATURES" - ALBUM REVIEW
Drenge stretch themselves on adventurous and largely successful third album
Drenge hold a rather strange position amongst the British music scene releasing two rather excellent albums of heavy riff-based rock without achieving quite the sales or notoriety they deserve. Occasionally criticised for being one dimensional. Their third album, Strange Creatures attempts to address this by adding musical variety to Drenge’s garage rock and cynical sardonic lyrics.
Yet, Strange Creatures starts in familiar fashion when Bonfire of the City Boys bursts into life with thrilling sound of Eoin Loveless’s muscular guitar and the clattering drums from his brother Rory. The music is matched by the unhinged narration from Eoin in one of his best vocal performances. This is a triumphant and engaging opener and it forcibly demands your full attention.
The opening songs are largely built around effectively brutal riffs like This Dance and Teenage Love though the distorted synth break down in the former hints at Drenge’s new found playful side. However, the first misstep arrives in the musically bland Autonomy with a generic guitar riff failing to inspire anything above tedium.
Much better is too come as Drenge slow the tempo with the dark gothic march of the title track. It is a Depeche Mode meets grunge ballad and this leads the way for further experimentation as saxophone wails and duals with thrashing guitars and desperate vocals recount a bleak tale from a school dance.
Lyrically Strange Creatures is concerned with human failings and has a critical tone; from the attack on group think mentality of No Flesh Road and the personal dressing down of Never See the Signs.
Unfortunately, Never See the Signs is a disappointment, it’s biting lyrics are ruined by some irritating and unnecessary reverb effect on Eoin vocals. While the wet blanket guitar work lacks any urgency or aggression and is matched by some horribly garish synth work.
This is followed by the far more successful Avalanches which again demonstrates Drenge’s brilliant ability to create an ominous atmosphere in their slower tempo numbers. Layered guitars combine with melodic keys to suitably match the weight of the song and emotional disconnect the lyrics display. When I Look Into Your Eyes, highlights the exploratory nature of the music on this record as threatening chanting back vocals, entwine with Spanish guitar and handclaps the experiment doesn’t quite work but it is an arresting end for the album.
Strange Creatures is an album with flaws but ultimately is a very enjoyable attempt at musical variety from an underappreciated and rather fantastic British rock band.
Stream ‘Strange Creatures’ below: