The Drones – The Wardrobe, Leeds, 11th November 2015
Melbourne’s The Drones are back in town. One of only two UK dates (the other one was in London last night), the seasoned Australian rock band are here in this country as part of a European tour to promote their new single and video ‘Taman Shud’. The track will appear on their seventh studio album which is due for release in February of next year.
‘Taman Shud’ makes an early appearance in tonight’s set. Three songs in and with The Drones not yet properly warmed up – a rather disappointingly small, yet very enthusiastic crowd may have had an influence upon this – the new single still feels like a right royal kick in the solar plexus. A shuddering, vitriolic clarion call to the Australian left, it is edgy, taut, and belligerent. Their first recorded music in some two years, ‘Taman Shud’ marks a most welcome of returns for The Drones.
After a relatively slow burn – in which another new song ‘Private Execution’ is also introduced – the set properly ignites. The point at which it does so comes during ‘Locust’. Taken from the band’s classic and magnificently named second album Wait Long By The River and the Bodies of Your Enemies Will Float By – a record that this year celebrates its 10th anniversary – it retains all of its original dark claustrophobia. A tortured, twisted lament, The Drones’ frontman Gareth Liddiard continues to spit out the song’s words of guilt and regret with a barely concealed anger that the passage of time has done little to diminish.
From the same record, the ensuing ‘Shark Fin Blues’ maintains The Drones’ upward trajectory. With their feet now firmly on the gas pedal, the band – Liddiard, fellow guitarist Dan Luscombe and the tight, throbbing engine room that is Fiona Kitschin on bass guitar and recently returned drummer Christian Strybosch – move onwards to a toxic, highly combustible finale of ‘Six Ways to Sunday’, ‘Someone On Your Bond’ and the mercurial, majestic title track from their third album, ‘The Miller’s Daughter’.
The absence of keyboard player Steve Hesketh may well deprive the music of some of its more spectral texture but what remains is an even greater sense of defiance. We are left with a snarling, literate and compassionate amalgam of sound that may well bring to mind thoughts of The Cramps – Luscombe’s T-shirt is a dead giveaway here – and their fellow countrymen The Birthday Party but it is one that has long since outgrown The Drones’ more primitive garage rock nascence.
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