If ever there was a release to honour the life of Mark E Smith and capture the man’s DIY essence, then surely the second album by DRINKS is that record. Once again a collaboration between one time member of The Fall, Tim Presley (more widely known for his work as White Fence) and the breathtaking Cate Le Bon, whose vocal style is often, admittedly very accurately, compared to that of German sixties pioneer Nico, Hippo Lite has that same hypnotic essence – and a similar “what the fuck?” type quality – that permeated all of Smith’s best work. Above all though, it makes you want to dance, but perhaps not necessarily in the most conventional way. Opener ‘Blue From The Dark‘, for instance feels like you’re swaying around the lawn with your sweetheart (it does sound kind of ‘old time’, so that word fits here), but, most likely, after inhaling just a little too much from that rather strong bong you just shared. ‘Real Outside‘, on the other hand, has such simplistic, repetitive instrumentation that your entire body cannot resist being drawn, against its will, onto the dancefloor, Le Bon’s sensual yet almost sinister French tones winking knowingly at you in the knowledge that you are now her puppet and she can make you do ANYTHING that she wants. Frightened? Maybe you should be…
Aside from a few wonky, off kilter interludes, Hippo Lite is a real tour de force, at least three times better than 2015’s impressive debut Hermits On Holiday without really being markedly different. The moments in which you DON’T feel like shaking that booty ’til you drop instead feel like you’ve wrapped yourself in a comfort blanket and gone off a-rolling, in a dreamlike state, down the most picturesque valley imaginable, while angels pluck cellos prettily as the soundtrack to your magical, rural odyssey.
It’s tunes like the fantasial ‘Corner Shops‘ which really make this album glow, however, Le Bon doing her best owl impressions towards the end of what is essentially another floor-filler (in an alternate universe, at least), though ‘Ducks‘ perhaps pushes it a little too far, and winds up sounding like something that even The Residents might have thought twice about whether it was a tad TOO weird to put out. That’s one slumber you most certainly DO want to wake up from. Apt then that the next track is the Presley fronted ‘Leave The Lights On‘, for that is undoubtedly how anyone who hears ‘Ducks‘ would feel immediately afterwards!
‘Pink Or Die‘ is arguably the standout, coming across like Stereolab covering Fairport Convention, before the finale of Burt Bacharach style melody, seemingly squeezed into an existential nightmare by the name of ‘You Could Be Better‘.
It’s fair to say that DRINKS are not for the faint-hearted. If you’re someone who needs music to ‘click’ the first, or even second, time you hear it, then Hippo Lite is perhaps not for you. But for the more patient amongst us, give it some time and you will surely be richly rewarded. If not…well…you’ve still got that bong, right?
Hippo Lite is released on April 20th through Drag City.