The Drones - Gala Mill
On their second, but first internationally available, album Australia's The Drones lived up to their name - sharp, garage rock drones that flushed out Blues-inspired songs of loss and loneliness. Whilst it had one of the best album titles of last year with Wait Long by the River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By, their music lacked a certain something on record that stood them out from the crowd. What refreshed my interest in them was a fantastic set at ATP earlier this year. They'd removed their rock-by-numbers approach and developed their sound into something more grandiose whilst discovering a more story-telling approach to their songs.
With front man Gareth Liddiard, The Drones possess one of the most articulate and captivating front men around. Each song is sung with a bile-tinged rasp of a voice, the lyrics are spat out in short, sharp bursts allowing you to concentrate and what he's trying to say. Whilst he's no Nick Cave, this developed song-writing and this story-telling approach brings him and The Birthday Party to mind. Of the six tracks here, only one is under five minutes and the album is expertly book ended by two epic songs - Jezebel beings the record with it's mixture of blues riffs and punk-rock chords, smashing it's way through tales of the seedier side of life and it descends into a crashing finale of drums and fractured chords whilst Sixteen Straws ends it, flowing through it's 9 minutes of almost acoustic folk as Liddiard recounts a tale of an ordinary day before it turns on the discovery of a prisoner, a story dealing with identity and loss.
The most straight-forward song here is I Don't Ever Want To Change which would have easily fitted on their previous album, it thrashes around it's punk guitars, Liddiard's voice strained to breaking point as he hollers the chorus - exhilarating stuff. As a flip side to this Words From The Executioner To Alexander Pearce is a slow burning drone-epic that's based more around the lyrics, the music plays second to the story retold. As an almost country interlude, Are You Leaving For The Country, is appropriately titled with it's slide guitar and gentle rhythm section, it could almost be a waltz.
One word of warning however - this is a record that demands your time and patience. On first playing it I was disappointed, the songs are long and, at times, ponderous, but you have to listen to them, focus on the words that are pouring from your speakers. As your mind absorbs them the music falls inline, it seems to flow through the words and they become a stream of noisy beauty. This is an album that rewards you for persevering with it, those looking for an instant hit should look elsewhere, but those listeners who like to be involved in a record and become part of it, this is for you.