Sound: If someone was to ask me name some current bands creating truly original music that's brings something new to the scene I would be hard pressed to name a few. Sure bands such as Muse and The White Stripes are selling thousands upon thousands of records and are arguably the pioneers of a new wave of modern rock bands. But in the same way Led Zeppelin gained extreme sucess in the 1970's we had bands on the periphery such as Television creating equally as exciting music but remaining relatively under the radar of mainstream success.
It can be argued that this is a saving grace and that making it big means selling out and replacing musical integrity with financial sucess however in my eyes the more people that are open to this kind of music the better and we should not want to deprive others of great music.
The band I am about to review fall into the later category and my main goal upon writing this is that more people will go out their and listen to this groups music for it is something truly amazing.
The Drones are an Australian rock band that have released four major albums so far as well as a serious of outtakes known as the "Millers Daughter". Coming from a deeply Australian back ground Gareth Liddiard the main songwriter of the band has always been fond of Australian history, some may call it "daggy" and "uncool" but Liddiard through his unique poetic style of writing creates something which is uniquely Australian and at the same time a delight to listen to.
I will be reviewing the latest album by The Drones known only as Havilah which is the name of a valley located near the small mud brick home in Mount Buffalo Victoria where the album was recorded. For first time listeners of the band I recommend this album as it is their most accesible but still retains the main element of their music which is a free spirited and feral form of rock and roll.
Album opener "Nail It Down" at first seemed like a departure from previous albums in that it was almost peppy and upbeat. However upon further listening I noticed a change in direction especially around the 3 minute mark where the song takes an entirely different approach. The music slows down and Liddiard creates a down tempo and sombre mood as the guitar enters for one of my favourite solos by the band that is explored later in the climax of the song.
Second track in and the album again throws a curve ball at us with the deliciously awkward "The Minotaur" The song hit's you with an off kilter and Cpn Beefheart esque riff that deserves to be noted for originality. At first this track seemed too weird for The Drones and although a departure from previous work it contained some of my favourite lyrics which I wil go into in the next section.
This time around the band felt the need to explore the acoustic side of their music in the form of four songs "The Drifting Housewife", "Careful As You Go", "Penumbra" and "Your Acting's Like The End Of The World" some of which are significantally weaker than others.
Although I'm more of a fan of their electric work I can still appreciate the work put into some of these songs. "The Drifting Housewife" contains some elegant slide and banjo work highlighting the bands multi instrument approach. Other efforts like "Penumbra" show that Liddiard can bring home the goods with just himself on guitar not unlike previous effort "sixteen straws". Perhaps the weakest track on the record "Your Acting's Like The End Of The World" is something I have never heard before in a Drones song. It explores a more country and folk style of the music and the song itself feels out of place on an album so heavily focused on the darker side of things.
Now to my favourite track on the record: "I Am The Supercargo". It shows an excellent use of interplay between Liddiard and Luscombe and they really know how to create tension simply through how hard they hit their instruments. The furst time I heard Liddiard sing the chorus I knew it was going to challenge "Sharkfin Blues" for my favourite song.
Following on from the acoustically inclined "Careful As You Go" "Oh My" may seem like a welcomed reprieve. Picked as one of the singles for the new album and recieving heavy roation on Triple J it has soon worn it's welcome out on me. Fair enough it's a decent song but when stood next to others on the album such as Super cargo it pales in comparison.
Cold And Sober is a slow but extremely heavy song in the way Liddiard spews emotion and sincerity from his lyrics. I stated before that I prefered the more agressive and electric works of the band but this song shows a rare and emotional side of the band which until now I was yet to see. "Luck In Odd Numbers" is the last song from the album and contains an almost jazz like sound along with a walking bass line from Fiona. The song is constantly being interrupted by some A class guitar work from Liddiard and Luscombe and the tremelo picking especially invokes a sense of danger as if the song is about to explode into an all out mixture of guitar fuzz and white noise. // 9
Lyrics: Let me just admit that I am someone who does appreciate lyrics however the music has always taken priority over what I read on paper and I feel I can not do Liddiards work justice in terms of trying to explain it to you. So I ask whoever reads this and takes a listen to the new album to try and appreciate the work he has done as I myself however I may try cannot put it into words well enough.
Liddiard in my eyes has always been someone who focuses cleverly upon lyrics and Havilah is no exception. "The Minotaur" attacks the couch potato society within youth today through the lines "He does not talk, he does not move He spends all day looking at porn or playing f--king Halo 2".
Liddiard also touches on the issue of white man invading native lands in Papua New Guinea and how religion is forced upon unwilling natives. The lyrics "They take pain and superstition / And then they call it something else" really highlight the bleak outlook Liddiard has towards religion. // 9
Overall Impression: Havilah is overall an extremely solid album and I really appreciate the new direction the band has taken. I think any new comers to the band would be hard pressed to find a better introduction as tracks like "I Am The Supercargo" contain vintage work but others such as Cold And Sober highlight the new direction the band may possibly take. I know the review seemed to ramble on and go off on a tangent but I really hope I have won over some new fans and turned more people on to the bands music. I would also really appreciate any discussion on the band itself and those who would like to discuss it can just search for my group! // 9