Doesn’t 2015 seem like a different world to 2019? It truly was the end of history; David Cameron was elected once again to much surprise, Hilary Clinton appeared set for the presidency come the next year. Things were stale, but stable. Fast-forward to 2019 and the world is on a knife edge, between the ideals of the past and the hope and strive for the future. The world is on fire, and we all have iPhones to watch it burn.
The state of British rock is also caught in the middle of bland, commerciality and alternative innovation and anarchy. For every generic band, you will find two amazingly unique ones. Where does this leave Drenge, who return with Strange Creatures after four years of absence? Comprising of brothers Eoin and Rory Loveless, as well as bassist Rob Graham who joined in 2015, they initially attained a cult following with their debut self titled album in 2013, and later more mainstream attention after a shout-out from Deputy Labour Leader Tom Watson in a resignation letter that same year. 2015’s brilliant Undertow followed, which reflects that time’s cohesion well with irreverent, artistic garage rock which contained songs such as ‘We Can Do What We Want’, which turned the story of Bonnie and Clyde into a blast of youthful, hedonistic energy.
Strange Creatures similarly reflects the climate in which it was made, the carefree abandonment replaced by dark tales of fear, pessimism and confusion. They have described the album as a “psychological horror movie on wax”, a pretty accurate summation of the record’s sinister and murky sound. Spoken word opener ‘Bonfire of the City Boys’ is a menacing statement of intent, ‘This Dance’ is a furious wall of sound, whilst ‘Teenage Love’ and ‘Prom Night’ (which feels like the male 2019 equivalent of a Shangri-La song) provide a angsty, moody flip to the adolescent us-against-the-world attitude of Undertow, as well as ‘No Flesh Road’ being reminiscent of Berlin-era Bowie.
All this sounds good on paper but in execution, the results are underwhelming with the album sometimes failing to justify its existence. Songs such as ‘Never See The Signs’ are forgettable, and the albums “horror movie” concept lacks substance. However, that is not to say this a bad record, with the beautiful shoegazing intensity of ‘Avalanches’ and closer ‘When I Look Into Your Eyes’ promising a Scott Walker-esque sound winding out the album.
There is promising stuff here, and Drenge excel in energy and passion, especially when it comes to their live performances. But Strange Creatures fails to live up to the potential set by their previous records and to reestablish themselves as one of the best bands in Britain.
Strange Creatures is released on 22 February 2019 via Infectious Records.