It’s been an interesting year and a half for Sheffield indie rock duo Drenge. The band’s rise to public awareness has taken a pretty incongruent path: being name checked by a member of Parliament upon resignation, dubbed “Derbyshire’s Black Keys” by the Guardian UK, and getting commercial appeal from BBC sitcoms and the like. All the while, the Loveless brothers played it cool. After debut single “Bloodsports” made it onto everybody’s top tracks of the year list (including one Jools Holland), the band shrugged that they didn’t really have much in mind for a career plan - just making good music, singles or otherwise. That plan continued with “Backwaters”, another hit, this time garnering appeal across the pond from Noisey. And now, despite all comments hinting that it may never happen, we have a full length Drenge record, and fittingly, it’s a nonstop throw-down. Drenge make their full length debut statement in surprisingly well-rounded form. The self-titled LP, out on Infectious Records, is a bare-knuckled endeavor that isn’t afraid to show off a variety of sounds, despite the minimalist setup. Eoin and Rory Loveless have put together a delightful fist fight of a record here, and there’s something to headbang to for just about anyone.
As if to evade any sense of preexisting expectation, Drenge shape the first half of their record in terms of increasing complexity. Record opener “People In Love Make Me Feel Yuck” sounds like it took about as long to write as it does to play, rocking two chords and a pounding drum line underneath an endearingly cynical outlook on love and affection. “Dogmeat” ups the ante slightly with its marching band pacing and outcries for violence. Then the tempo skyrockets for grimy sexuality of “I Want To Break You In Half”, sure to be a hit in their upcoming string of live shows. Then, even more fulfilling in an album’s context, “Bloodsports” hits you straight in the teeth with all the full force we’ve come to know and love from it. Finally, “Backwaters” rounds out the opening quintet with the most blistering riff yet. With these first five, Drenge get to show off without throwing down their whole hand. There’s a surprisingly wide array of influences here, never sinking to double any blues rock duo we’ve already come to know all too well. Eoin’s raspy growl is more english factory town than southern drawl, and the new mixture here is well appreciated and easy to love.
Drenge lose the blues for a pair of sizzling beauties in the form of “Gun Grazy” and “Face Like A Skull”. Here, Eoin and Rory’s interplay is top notch, mixing in just enough complexity to keep things interesting while driving the tempo forward as much as possible. Then we see Drenge visit the most familiar blues rock sound on the record so far with “I Don’t Want To Make Love To You” and “Nothing”. The latter is one of the record’s highlights, taking an extra minute on the clock to let the groove set in and cook a bit before cruising on to the next cut. Even when the sound is familiar, Drenge make it interesting with a mixture of weirdly gothic lyrics and a wolfish snarl coming from the guitar, the drums, and the vocals equally.
The record takes an almost uncharacteristically dark turn towards the end with “Let’s Pretend”, an eight minute dirge paying homage to misappropriated love and piercing heartbreak (keep in mind that the average length of the previous ten tracks barely clocks in at two and a half). But lightening the mood in the most underhanded way possible is perhaps the record’s most pop-driven effort. “Fuckabout” sees Eoin playing another tell-off to everyone in love, this one a bit more melancholy than the record’s opener. While love may make the Loveless brothers want to give up, all it will make you want to do is flip the record over and start it up again.
Drenge is out this week on Infectious Records. It’s an uneven roller coaster of emotions, but ultimately it’s a great collection of singles and b-sides and a worthy introduction from a delightful new face in the blues rock game. Grab it at your local record store on CD or vinyl. Catch Drenge in Seattle at the Sunset Tavern (think about how much fun that will be, seriously) on August 4 for ten bucks. Grab tickets here.