Monday, April 13, 2009

Review: The Drones - Havilah (* * * *)

The Drones have been labeled by many as one of Australia's greatest rock bands, but I hadn't heard much about them before this year. They have recently released their fifth record, Havilah, in the U.S. - though it's been out for quite a while in their home country - and I finally had the pleasure of being introduced. The band's uniquely raw, rough sound - combining elements of classic rock, folk, and more progressive musical elements - makes it clear why these guys come so highly recommended. The ten tracks on the album are provocative and stirring, with frontman Gareth Liddiar's rough, emotive vocals spinning twisted narratives over slow-burning, meandering rock 'n' roll music.

Opener "Nail It Down" starts things off on a relatively mild note, with Liddiar's thickly accented voice wandering over classic rock riffs of varying intensity, while the following track, "Minotaur," is louder, grungier, and grittier - a cacophonous mix of spiky guitars, shouting, and pure energy. The remaining material leans toward the less explosive, more deliberately paced side of the band's style. Songs like "The Drifting Housewife" and "Careful As You Go" feature clean electric guitars over minimal percussion while Liddiar spins melancholy tales that don't always make much sense, but the imagery and cracked, distorted melodies are gripping just the same. Closer "Your Acting's Like The End Of The World" is the most surprising (and pleasantly so) cut here, an acoustic folk-rock number with a heavy dose of southern twang that ends the album on a lighter note.

There are still a few bouts of noisier rock 'n' roll, like the upbeat, urgent "Oh My" and the dynamic "I Am The Supercargo," which erupts with several fiery guitar solos in between the dark, weary verses. These more musically violent outbursts are especially effective as they feel like needed punctuation on an album that shows a great deal of restraint. The record can seem a little daunting at first, with the ten dense, grinding tracks stretching well over fifty minutes, but the musical variation and the band's obvious talent make Havilah a consistent and generally fantastic listen. It's quite easy to see why The Drones continually create so much excitement as one of Australia's hottest bands.

Check out The Drones on MySpace