Freeway, 1996 (‘Get in the Trunk’ Scene)
Title: Strange Creatures
Record Label: Infectious Music
Release Date: 22nd February 2019
For album number three, Drenge have ploughed headlong into a cinematic aesthetic that’s been teased by their earlier outings; ‘Strange Creatures’ is a record that quivers like a psychological thriller rather than a Hollywood blockbuster. This would be the kind of motion picture where your mind is urged to build up a mental image rather than having the story spoon-fed to you. The feeling of being an outsider is woven throughout the Loveless brother’s third record, you view the world through Rory and Eoin’s eyes as they opt to reject faux-American culture whilst painting the picture of people that like to observe from the shadows. The band themselves are open about their life on the fringes “being the outsider perhaps hasn’t permeated all our songs before, but we’re both weirdos”
Sonically, the Derbyshire duo have pushed themselves into further experimentation, the ferocity of their self titled debut has been evenly spread out, so keep the pair’s looming intensity but at a slower, more menacing pace. If ‘Undertow’, the band’s sophomore LP, was Eoin and Rory stretching their boundaries then ‘Strange Creatures’ finds the pair completely disregarding them by tinkering with electronics, brass and all manner of odd textures.
“It started with a bang” announces opening track ‘Bonfire of the City Boys’, a rampant bass and drum propelled throb, that sees stickman Rory flex his herculean muscles as colossal beats come at you from all angles. Bass thrum swells to earthquaking walls of sound, as Eoin can be heard switching from streams of consciousness rants to lung busting shouts. This is a song for the disenchanted as the band’s mouthpiece proclaims “we’re the fly in the ointment/the hair in the food” as if to quantify their status of being figures on the periphery of social standings. ‘Strange Creatures’ first foray into the twosome showing their disdain for recycled American culture comes via ‘Teenage Love’s dark, sardonic tale of milkshakes, diners and jukeboxes, “where the old dogs prowl/there’s a diner on the edge of town”. It would also seem Eoin disagrees with Kelis’ alluring, diary-based sirens call as well, as punctuated by the acidic “milkshakes make me sick/lactose intolerant”, the Drenge lads won’t be going to Kelis’ yard any time soon! ‘Prom Night’ twists the narrative of a school dance ending in a gory massacre. Surf guitars twang out an uneasy refrain, as Eoin goes on to detail some disturbing observations “people coming out covered in blood” whilst recounting the hazy vision of an unidentified being “but to swear to god/that night before the sirens arrived on the scene/something stepped out from under the rubble/whatever it was it was like Halloween”. An added drawl of saxophone just enhances these macabre visions. ‘No Flesh Road’ opts for more of an abstract approach, with drum machine taps wrapped around a solitary bass buzz, the track slithers and meanders while the band recount a mystery road trip where “taillights glow in the midnight snow”. A serrated riff and queasy synth lines convey a grinding sense of threat towards the track’s swelling climax. The album’s eponymous centrepiece takes on a spectral form, guitars splinter and ghoulish organ noises create a sense of unease. Drenge’s third effort revels itself like a ten-part series of spooky episodes but there’s also the occasional reference to some of cinema’s greatest films, most notably during ‘Autonomy’s squelching electronics and choppy rock ‘n’ roll riffola, you might want to keep an eye out for the Blade Runner Easter egg (spoiler alert!).
After four years in captivity ‘Strange Creatures’ is clawing at the cage door and is snarling to be set free. You’d better prepare yourself for this unpredictable beast.