Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Two Thousand Eight - 6. The Drones - Havilah

I probably listened to the Drones more than any other band in 2008. This worked out pretty well, as I've gone through some obsessive periods over bands during some pretty awkward times in their existences, and that doesn't work especially well. The most intense period of my Radiohead admiration took place between about 6 months to a year after OK Computer came out and the the release of Amnesiac. Roughly a 3 year span, I think, during which time they released an EP, which is still probably one of my favorite records of all time, in any case, and an LP, which definitely is, and did not tour at all. I could just as easily have listened to nothing but Thin Lizzy last year and been left with nothing to show for it but some perpetual blue balls.

So it was nice that the Drones not only released Havilah this fall and toured in such a way that I was able to see them blow about 20 people's minds in a very small basement room, but also that they're definitely still at the peak of their game.

You can see what I wrote about "The Minotaur" for Tiny Mix Tapes. I won't bother saying anything much more about that. It's an amazing track and represents exactly what this band is capable of when they set their sights on boiling the blood.

But the Drones seem to be dead set on being the exact opposite of their name, and that means that they can't just be trying to rock out on every track. For me this is more often frustrating than anything else. Why does Kanye have to sing? Why do the Drones have to follow "The Minotaur" with "The Drifting Housewife"?

Please do not get me wrong. Sequencing is not The Drones' strong suit, but I think "The Drifting Housewife" is easily better than 80% of the music I heard last year. And since it's by far the least good song in the record, that puts the rest of the songs a pretty decent percentile. "Nail It Down" isn't as exceptional as "Jezebel" or "Shark Fin Blues" when it comes to Drones leadoff tracks, but it's still freaking great. "I Am the Supercargo" is a slow burn for the ages and I'm still fucking trying to figure out what exactly it's about. If you know, please tell me.

Unlike, say Thom Yorke's lyrics, or which are impressionistic in the "I'm just trying to get a vibe going" kind of way, this shit is impressionistic in a way that is actually trying to get something across. You know that "Supercargo" is trying to tackle topics, and you get the sense that it's doing a pretty good job of tackling, even if it seems like it's going in eighteen directions at once. Gareth Liddiard's brain is running from colonialism, some sort of narrative about a marriage, to straight up post modern dissatisfaction, and he's doing what he can to make it make sense, but it's more about just getting things out and that's more than enough. When it's focused, as on "Oh My" and "The Minotaur" the vitriol is fucking blinding, and when it's mixed in with more complicated shit it just takes a little more work to get the marrow out of it.

And lest you think I'm down on the ballads, "Cold and Sober" is the heartbreakingest song the Drones have ever committed to an MP3. Rare is the band that can kill you with violence and silence on the same record. Why are these people not bigger than Jesus?

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At Tue Mar 17, 12:40:00 PM, Blogger Loki Motive said...

Regarding "I am the Supercargo," these pages may help you:

And just because I had no idea, here's a definition of Supercargo for you: "a merchant-ship officer who is in charge of the cargo and the commercial concerns of the voyage."


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